From the beginning the Church has been plagued by two opposing extremes in the doctrine of spiritual gifts.
There has been and there still is abuse of spiritual gifts. On the other hand there has been an appalling failure to appreciate the importance of spiritual gifts.
The usefulness and fruitfulness of the Church depends on the understanding and scriptural use of spiritual gifts.
We should notice at this point the distinction drawn in the NT between spiritual gifts and gifted men.
1 Corinthians 12-14 describe the spiritual abilities or supernatural/extraordinary powers that are given to believers by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:11 has reference to gifted men being given to the Church by the ascended Lord. After a close analysis of the Word we conclude that there are some gifts that are temporary and some that are permanent.
Conservative scholars believe that there are 16 spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT. 9 of these are with us today. 7 were phased out during the apostolic age.
Let us now take the gifts given by the Spirit.
1. Ministering—1 Cor. 12:20; Rom. 12:7. Every believer more or less has this gift. It is the gift of helping. The work of the church would be impossible apart from the exercise of this gift.
2. Administration—1 Cor. 12:28; Rom 12:8. This gift is obviously only bestowed upon a few. These leaders have been given authority by God and should be respected and obeyed. Heb. 13:7.
3. Exhortation—Rom. 12:8. This is a very important gift. It is practical and stirring. The exhorter is the one who encourages, comforts, admonishes, and leads us into a closer realization of god’s will.
4. Giving—Rom. 12:8. Most Christians give, but there are some who give till it hurts.
5. Mercy—Rom. 12:8. the former gift has to do with the poor and needy. This gift is related to the sick and afflicted. This gift has to be used with cheerfulness.
6. Evangelism—Eph. 4:11. The evangelist is the one who propagates the Gospel. His supernatural gift is reaching men for Christ.
7. Faith. Some have outstanding faith, having confidence in God and His power.
8. Pastor—Eph. 4:11. A pastor or shepherd is worth his weight in gold. He is one who feeds, leads, protects, and cares for the flock.
9. Teacher—Eph. 4:11. The gift of teaching must be considered as one of the major gifts. The teacher’s main task is to make known the will of God from the Word of God.
What is a spiritual gift? It may be defined as an enablement which the Lord Jesus gives to every believer through the Spirit to empower him to serve God in some specific way. This “spiritual” differs from natural talent.
A talent is a natural endowment which is bestowed upon a person at birth. This can take the form of superior skill in music, singing, an exceptional mind, art, oratory, or any exceptional natural ability.
This kind of talent comes from natural sources. Unbelievers possess these talents as well as believers.
Contrarily, spiritual gifts are graciously given by God to born again believers at conversion. When this gift is recognized, nurtured, and developed, it can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring tremendous blessing. Spiritual gifts are given for the glory of God, the development of spiritual character, for the building up of the church, and for the winning of the lost for Christ.
Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 12:7, “To each one is given this gift by the Spirit that he may use it for the good of all.” “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, dividing to each one individually as He wills.”
Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7.
It is an indisputable fact that every believer has a special God-given gift or special enablement for service.
The following points deserve close consideration:
1. Gifts differ in value, but all are equally honorable.
2. Gifts are to be used in love.
3. Spiritual gifts must not be regarded as an enlargement of natural powers. They should be looked on as a supernatural ability bestowed in keeping with the purpose of God.
4. Many individuals with little natural talent have been mightily used by God.
The growth and spiritual expansion of an assembly is often hindered by members who will not recognize their gift, and even if they do, neglect it, refusing to stir it up and develop it.
Beloved child of God, since you have received the greater gift of eternal life, you have also received spiritual gifts. It is important to you as an individual and to the local church that you know your gifts and use them for the glory of God.
Discovering One’s Gifts
Every believer should spend much time in prayer, seeking to discover his gift. A believer cannot function in the Body if he does not know and use his gift. The recognition and use of the gift can be a tremendous blessing in the local church.
There are several basic steps in discovering one’s gift:
1. It is necessary to know the gifts which the risen Christ and the Spirit have given to the Church.
2. It should be a matter of concern and a matter of prayer.
3. Various types of service should be tried.
4. There should be counsel with spiritual believers.
5. We should develop our gift.
6. A teacher should study the Word and develop communication skills.
How Can Gifts Be Encouraged or Stirred Up?
The development of gifts is very important to the individual and the assembly.
In writing to Timothy, Paul urges him:
1. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” 1 Tim. 4:14.
2. “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee.” 2 Tim. 1:6.
So then, having come to the conclusion that every believer has a gift from God, the same exhortation is necessary today. Do not under any circumstances neglect your gift. And at every opportunity stir up your gift.
In finding out our gift we will try various kinds of ministry, and we will find more inner satisfaction doing some forms of service more than others. Furthermore, people seem to react more favorably and confess to being blessed by some forms of my service rather than others.
The inner satisfaction with the attested outward blessing gives us some indication as to where our gift lies.
This would be stirring up our gift as an individual. The elders and leaders have a responsibility to stir up and develop gifts. For instance, they must provide opportunities for the exercise of gifts. Furthermore, as the opportunity arises, those more mature should encourage the young brethren.
There are a variety of ways in which we can involve our young men. They can be asked to share a testimony or give a brief message from the Word at some of the meetings. Other with the aptitude could be involved in song-leading or opening a meeting where a chairman is necessary.
During this process of development much patience must be exercised by all. Sure there will be lapses from normalcy. There may even be some embarrassing situations, but the progress made in the development of gifts far exceeds the occasional lapses.
Even more important than all these opportunities is the one presented each Sunday morning or evening as the case may be. The openness of the Lord’s Supper brings an obligation to every believer to prepare to participate. This provides an important opportunity to exercise and develop spiritual gifts.
Great wisdom and care needs to be displayed in the process of development. Despite desires, everyone will not turn out to be a preacher. To waste time or afford opportunity to one desirous to speak publicly, but is not gifted, is a grave injustice to the saints, and dishonoring to our risen Lord.
Let me issue a warning at this time. Our aversion to one man ministry must not drive us to an equally wrong position, that of “any man ministry.”
Every man ministry is neither the cure for, nor an acceptable alternative to, one man ministry. They are equally unscriptural.
Women’s Service in the Church
Priscilla helped her husband teach Apollos the way of God. Acts 18:26.
Paul called Euodias and Syntyche his “fellow laborers” even though their personal differences were endangering the unity of the local church. Phil. 4:2-3.
Phoebe was a “servant” of the church. Rom. 16:1.
Dorcus helped the poor by making clothes. Acts 9:36, 39.
Lydia opened her home to Paul and his coworkers. Acts 16:15-40.
Older sisters and mothers should be ready to teach the younger women. Titus 2.
Mary worshipped the Lord. John 12.
Martha served tables.
Mary Magdalene gave her possessions to Christ. Luke 8.
Prayer is one of the more important aspects of our faith and work for the Lord. Generally speaking most sisters can do this better than most men.
The mother’s influence on her children—Eunice and her mother Lois.
I believe that a mother plays a greater part in molding the character of the child during their formative years.
Psychologists say that the first seven years of a child’s life are the most important for the development of character. These are the years when the child comes mostly under the influence of the mother.
To be a mother and to raise the child for God is one of the highest privileges given in God’s economy.