Spiritual Gifts a Bible Study
Posted by adventbiblestudy on November 21, 2009
Clichés and generalities are not spiritual gifts, neither do they supply adequate answers, so we will examine an actual example. Beyond Jesus, there is not a single person possessing the ability to reach every person on earth. Narrow that down to a church. No single person in a church has the ability to reach every member. One responsibility of the church is to minister to the members. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:1-12. Although the King James Version states, “every man,” a more appropriate interpretation would be, “each or every,” which is the key. A church is functioning properly when each and every member is involved. This will never be achieved if only one person has the task of inviting every member to be involved in church ministries. A more efficient model will use a number of people to encourage church members.
I have seen this method utilized in one church. Every board member was expected to speak to a number of people on a monthly basis, asking each how they would like to be involved in church ministries. Each church member had a number of board members assigned to encourage them. This system worked because each member was approached with a number of different methods. Some board members preferred to use the phone while others relied on personal contact, some at church, others outside of church. This also had the effect of making every member feel needed and appreciated. The initial response from a typical member will be, “I’ll pray about it.” In most churches this will be the one and only instance the member will be approached. Most members want to get involved and quickly decide how they want to be involved. Because they are seldom asked a second time they often feel neglected and forgotten. When a system is in place to ask each member a number of times, the neglect is avoided. The results of increased participation in ministries can never be fully measured. Some of the results include; increased church growth, trust and respect for the leadership and a higher degree of retained membership. Many people choose one church over another because they have been asked to become involved. When members are involved in church ministries they invest time, which helps to retain membership.
Because there are a number of board members talking to the members, not one could possibly take credit for the outcome. No one should ever take credit for the spiritual development of another person, but this may happen from time to time.
The subject of spiritual gifts has both positive and negative aspects in the Bible. To fully appreciate the subject, both must be studied. To understand spiritual gifts we need to first study God’s gifts to man, both physical and spiritual.
KJV James 1:17. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
This is usually one of the few texts explaining God’s gifts provided in a study of spiritual gifts. This text tells us, “every good gift,” but does not explain what these gifts are? Most studies go directly to Romans 12:5-21 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 provides a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts, but fail to provide a spiritual explanation of those gifts. The following texts provide a look at a few of the physical gifts God has given and a portion of their spiritual implications.
KJV Genesis 2:7. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
KJV Genesis 2:21. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
The entire world is a gift from God, man’s life and companion; woman, is a gift from God. There is a reason God had recorded the creation of woman in such a detailed manner. There is a reason woman was created in a manner far different than that of any other living creature. This is an illustration of the relationship God intended to have with man. Do we treat women as a gift from God? Do we understand the relationship we were intended to have with God? How can we hope to explain spiritual gifts when we do not convey the proper respect for the gifts God has given us?
KJV Genesis 3:21. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
Even after sin, God continued to give gifts. Skins were only the beginning. These also conveyed a spiritual meaning, a promise of a gift to come.
KJV Isaiah 61:10. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
KJV John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
KJV Romans 6:23
23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
KJV Ephesians 2:8
8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Looking at the word gift from a spiritual aspect, how can one imagine gaining an understanding of spiritual gifts without first gaining an understanding of God’s plan of salvation? The plan of salvation teaches an important aspect. Just as salvation is a gift to all, spiritual gifts are available to everyone. No one should ever feel it is their duty to decide who posses spiritual gifts and how they should use them? No one has any more control over a person’s spiritual gifts than over the gift of salvation? The Bible is clear, salvation is, “not of yourselves.”
KJV Ephesians 4:4. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
KJV 1 Corinthians 7: 6. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 7. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
Spiritual gifts are easily viewed from a positive perspective. Does knowing a list of spiritual gifts qualify as understanding? You can memorize a list of the 50 states in the United States, does this qualify you as an expert of the economic and political climate in each state? It is questionable if a complete study of each of the spiritual gifts would yield all the information one would ever need concerning each of these gifts. The fullness of each spiritual gift will only be revealed after you take the time to exercise the gift. It’s a little like cooking. One will never know the impact a spice will have on a dish until you try it. A beginning cook will seldom display the abilities of an experienced cook. Like spices, just a little bit can make a big difference. Spiritual gifts require practice, patiencs and a willingness to experiment.
Why do we find church leaders with the impression they have the authority to judge members and their ability to serve? A study of the word gift will reveal the fact God knew certain leaders would take advantage of their position to control the spiritual gifts within the church.
KJV Acts 8:20. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
The book of Acts gives us an example of a man attempting to purchase the power of a spiritual gift. Peter tells the man his money is as temporary and useless as his life. If your heart is not right with God, you have no part in the distribution of spiritual gifts.
Do we see this in the church today? Are there leaders granting employment based not on qualifications but on relationships? Are there others maintaining paid positions within the church after displaying a total lack of ability? Qualification for church boards may often be based upon who you know and how you get along with the leadership. Control often precedes the concern for church growth when considering board members.
KJV Ezekiel 16:33
33. They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom.
Ezekiel 16 records a story of early growth in the nation of Israel and how they abused the gifts God had given them. Instead of entering into a covenant with God to prosper into a kingdom, they trusted in their own beauty, played the harlot, and built an eminent place. The history of Israel showed a kingdom thriving on extortion, greed, pride and a disregard of God’s laws. It did not take long for the kings of Israel to act the role of the priest by offering incense and sacrifices. They were not satisfied with the political leadership of the kingdom. They envied the office of the priest and lusted after the honor and respect, which the position offered. God provided many warnings concerning the abuse of power and gifts.
KJV Proverbs 17:23
23. A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.
The gift in this text is usually regarded as physical. When we consider this on a spiritual level we see an entirely new meaning. The word bosom refers to taking something out of yourself. No one has the power to retrieve any type of gift, physical or spiritual from their bosom. Since this act is not physically possible, it must carry a spiritual meaning.
Looking at the physical interpretation we understand people will use gifts to influence people in high positions. We refer to this as a bribe. If we consider the gift in a spiritual manner we can easily see, people will abuse the principle of spiritual gifts, going against better judgment in an attempt to gain positions. Is this parable a prophecy showing how leaders will attempt to demonstrate the ability to distribute spiritual gifts, not with the aid of the Holy Spirit but from themselves?
KJV Exodus 23:7. Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. 8. And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
KJV Deuteronomy 16:19. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
Physical gifts are used to pervert judgment. Do physical gifts make people physically blind? No, they spiritually blind people. If this is true for physical gifts, how much more important is the proper use and distribution of spiritual gifts. Some leaders may claim they possess a higher degree of spiritual gifts based on their position. They may claim this gives them the right to decide who occupies which position. Is there Biblical proof for such a claim? Not as far as I know. Solomon provides a description of such a person. “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.” KJV Proverbs 25:14.
We will look at the conventional understanding of spiritual gifts which are contained within a few new Testament texts. Later we will look at a number of spiritual applications of God’s gifts.
KJV Romans 12:5-21
5. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7. Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8. 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.
9. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11. Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12. Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13. Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
KJV 1 Corinthians 12:1-12
1. Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
2. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
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.
4. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9. To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10. To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
KJV 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
27. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
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.
29. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30. Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31. But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
From the above texts we can make a list of the spiritual gifts.
Bless them which persecute
Discerning of spirits
fervent in spirit
Interpretation of tongues
patient in tribulation
Rejoice with them that do rejoice
Rejoicing in hope
Serving the Lord
Weep with them that weep
We can easily see, it would be difficult for any person to be an expert on thirty spiritual gifts. This is why it is important to realize, God hath set some in the church. Not man, God has set both the members and the gifts in the church, in addition to the wood, stone, glass, light and air. These are details which should not be over looked when considering spiritual gifts and positions within the church.
There are many examples and applications of spiritual gifts taught within the Bible. Most people are satisfied with knowing the basics and pay little attention to the greater quantity of spiritual lessons illustrated within the parables of the Bible.
KJV Luke 8:16-18
16. No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. 17. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. 18. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
We know Jesus is not referring to a physical light, but a spiritual one. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” KJV Ephesians 1:18.
Notice Jesus uses the word no man. The attention is drawn to the fact He is referring to everyone. This spiritual light represents the use of spiritual gifts in the form of enlightenment. This parable teaches the simple lesson, no one should hide a spiritual gift. This is true for leaders and members. Every individual is responsible for sharing their spiritual gift with the world. Church leadership should never attempt to hide, alter or hinder an individual’s gift. Instead they should encourage, putting the gift upon a spiritual candlestick so it may be held high and shared with others.
KJV Luke 21:1. And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. 2. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. 3. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 4. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
What are the spiritual lessons taught by the poor widow and her two mites? In a parable, a spiritual lesson will always go beyond the physical restraints of money. In this parable Jesus is showing how an old widow can be useful not only in a physical sense with the physical money but in a spiritual context. The others gave of their excess, the old woman gave of her penury, which means her deficit; specifically, poverty. Putting this into a spiritual context we can understand, this woman represents every member of the church. She gave of her deficit because she owed God everything. She realized there was never anything which was hers. The same is true of spiritual gifts. We do not receive spiritual gifts from our abundance. When we rely upon our abundance, our gifts are meaningless. We will never realize the power of a spiritual gift until we realize our spiritual poverty.
KJV Proverbs 8:32. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. 33. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. 34. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. 36. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
The concept of gifts is also found in the Old Testament. God’s original plan was for Israel to be a nation of priests. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. KJV Exodus 19:6. After the Israelites refused the offer, God chose the tribe of Levi. God considered the Levites as a gift.
KJV Numbers 18:6
6. And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
The Levites were not given an inheritance of land in Canaan. Instead they were given a tithe of all the land and all the people.
KJV Numbers 18:29
29. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the Lord, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.
Because the Israelites chose not to serve God in the intended capacity, they were required to give their best to the priest, who willing accepted God’s spiritual gift. This illustrates the support we are to give members who display the use of spiritual gifts. God never gave up on His plan. In the New Testament we see this invitation presented once again.
Imagine if we followed God’s original plan. Every member would be doing their best to spread God’s word. What would the growth of the church be if every member took the responsibility of being a priest for God? If this was God’s original plan, didn’t Jesus open the door to this plan when the responsibility of spreading the gospel was given to the disciples and the gentiles?
KJV Ephesians 3:7. Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9. And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11. According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
This door has been open for more than 2000 years, but have we taken advantage of the gifts God has given His people? The book of Acts shows us the early disciples were given the power to speak, teach, speak and interpret prophecies and heal, among other gifts. Today it seems some of these gifts have been largely overlooked. Why? Is there Biblical text indicating a change in spiritual gifts? How were these gifts used by the early church and what were the results?
KJV 1 Corinthians 14:12. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
The purpose of these gifts was to edify the church. The word edify simply means to build up. The word church in this text means a calling out. It’s simple to see spiritual gifts are to be used to build up a group of people who are called upon to come out of this world. How does one obtain these gifts?
KJV Hebrews 2:4. God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
KJV 1 Timothy 4:14. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
KJV 1 Peter 4:9. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
The book of Hebrews indicates spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit. There are a number of text supporting this belief. Looking a bit deeper into the text a question may arise. Hebrews 2:4 indicates these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, according to his own will. Whose will? The will of the Holy Spirit or the will of the person receiving gifts? Think of this for a moment. When does something become a gift? As long as we keep it to ourselves it will never become a gift. Our abilities from God will only become gifts when we give them to another.
We are not to neglect any gift, but we are to meditate upon the use of the gifts we share. Comparing our actions with scripture will help us develop a better use of the gifts we share. When we consider our actions, the Holy Spirit will continually convict us with thoughts designed to enhance the use of the gifts. This is a major point established with the parable of the man, who buried his one talent. He may have been trusted with only one talent because history has shown his lack of concern. He may not have possesesd the mental capacity to deal with more than a small amount of money. The master may have noticed his lack of interest. Whatever the reason for receiving the least amount of money to deal with, he displayed a total lack of imagination. The others practiced the art of investing, while one man refused to challenge himself and the Spirit.
Peter writes about gifts some may consider less important. When one begins scoring gifts given by God, they fail to see the larger picture. All our lives have been touched by simple gestures. For some it may be a simple act of a child, a dandelion from a son or daughter. We tend to forget the simple gifts from the heart often make the greatest impression. Another spiritual lesson seen in the parable of the two mites.
There is no measuring tool for gifts. There is no limit to the gifts God can give. The important point is to share these gifts with others and to practice the use of these gifts, always improving. We may never know the effects a gift may have. One act can lead a person to treat another better. One idea shared in a Christ like manner can induce the thoughts of another. The Spirit may be working through a number of people in an effort to bring about a great work. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. KJV Isaiah 55:8. One thing is for sure, we will never know the results unless we try.
One thing is for certain. Spiritual gifts create a growth and a closer relationship with God. Once a relationship is established through spiritual gifts it creates a bond which cannot be broken.
KJV Hebrews 6:3. And this will we do, if God permit. 4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5. And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.