Assessing Your Spiritual Gifts And Their Use by God In the Church
By D. Kris Minefee, Pastor
Text: 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4
Introduction: Good as Your Dog
If you can start the day without caffeine, If you can get going without pep pills, If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains, If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles, If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it, If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time, If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when, though no fault of yours, something goes wrong, If you can take criticism and blame without resentment, If you can ignore a friends limited education and never correct him/her, If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend, If you can face the world without lies and deceit, If you can conquer tension without medical help, If you can relax without liquor, If you can sleep without the aid of drugs, If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, or politics, Then, my friend, You are ALMOST as good as your dog.
We are going to talk about spiritual gifts, but I have to tell none of them are going to make better than your dog. Nope, not going to happen.
The Gifts Understood in the Bible (Purpose)
The spiritual gifts were given by God for a purpose.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
Romans 12:3-5 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
From these passages we can see that the gifts were giving to bless or profit all the church and for the work of the whole body of Christ. Spiritual gifts are not given for selfish reasons. Actually, they are not giving for your personal use at all. God gave these gifts to you for the benefit of others. To use them for yourself is a misuse of your gift. You and your gifts are given to the church.
Illustration: Buddy The Blind Horse
Sometimes though we don’t use our gifts as they should be used. We are a little like Buddy the Blind horse. An out-of-towner drove his car into a ditch in a desolated area. Luckily, a local farmer came to help with his big strong horse named Buddy. He hitched Buddy up to the car and yelled, "Pull, Nellie, pull!" Buddy didn't move. Then the farmer hollered, "Pull, Buster, pull!" Buddy didn't respond. Once more the farmer commanded, "Pull, Coco, pull!" Nothing. Then the farmer nonchalantly said, "Pull, Buddy, pull!" And the horse easily dragged the car out of the ditch. The motorist was most appreciative and very curious. He asked the farmer why he called his horse by the wrong name three times. The farmer said, "Oh, Buddy is blind and if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn't even try."
Transition: So what are these gifts we are supposed to use?
The Gifts Uncovered in the Believers (People)
Spiritual Gifts given to individual believers
Gifts were given to the early church for it's authentication as God's House of Witness, replacing the Temple. - 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 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; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 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: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
Word of wisdom: the communication of spiritual wisdom.
Word of knowledge: communication of practical knowledge.
Faith: not saving faith but great faith able to believe and see God do great things.
Gifts of healing: supernatural healing of disease and infirmities.
Workings of miracles: able to do supernatural wonders.
Prophecy: foretelling the future and forth-telling the judgment of God.
Discerning of spirits: Supernatural ability to judge spiritual forces
Divers kinds of tongues: ability to speak different languages.
Interpretation of tongues: ability to understand different languages.
These gifts were also given permanently for the work of the church until Christ returns - Romans 12:8-10 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. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Prophesy (Judging, Discernment)
Ministry (Serving, Helping)
Teaching (Instructing, Guiding)
Exhortation (Encouraging, Uplifting other)
Ruling (Administration, Organization)
Giving (Contributing, Supplying)
Mercy (Comforting, Forgiving)
Why didn’t Paul include the gift in both books?
First keep in mind which book was written first. 1 Corinthians written was around 54 AD. Romans was written around 58 AD. Much had been happening and changing in the life of the church since its founding to the time of Paul’s writing to the Romans. Though the purpose of the gifts within the church was the same, the purpose outside the church was now different.
Sign gifts and miracles once use to identify God’s new house of witness were phasing out.
The time to “walk by faith not by sight” was fast approaching.
This does not mean God no longer heals or performs miracles but that it is not done as a “sign” to unbelievers, nor is it done through “gifted” individuals within the church body.
Epistle to Corinth was to deal with a specific situation, the abuse of the gifts, while Romans was written to give a full understanding of the gospel of salvation and the church’s role in carrying forth that gospel.
The main difference between the two lists is the absence of the “sign” or miracle gifts.
This is not by accident it is by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through Paul.
The “sign” gifts would cease once God’s Revelation was complete.
1 Corinthians 13:9-11 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Paul names the very gifts he mentioned in chapter 12 and says they will cease. The question is when.
He tells us in verse 10 it will be “when that which is perfect is come.”
“That” cannot be Jesus or his return but must refer to the revelation of God which is in view in the context. Perfect does not refer to sinlessness but to completeness. The subject has been imperfect knowledge which will be superseded when perfect knowledge, complete knowledge is given. That will be with the completion of God’s revelation which was the completion of the Bible completed when John wrote the book of Revelation.
We see instances where the “sign gifts” had already begun to cease
1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
Philippians 2: 25-27 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
Why didn’t Paul heal these men?
In Acts we are told “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”
Yet now he left one man sick, told another to drink wine as a medicine and prayed to God for healing another just like you and I do today. The “sign-miraculous gifts” were fading. It was time to walk by faith. Therefore, the only gifts of God for the church today are those in Romans 12 and also Ephesians 4.
So we have these gifts in operation in the church today.
The gift of prophecy makes a Christian extremely sensitive to sin and they react against it strongly sometimes forgetting to love the sinner while hating the sin.
The Server has a great capacity and desire to serve God by rendering practical help in both physical and spiritual matters. The gift of ministry is seen in those who the first offer help, the last to quit and the ones who never take nor get credit for what they do.
The gift of teaching makes a person want to share the depths of God’s word. This gift is seen in those who find the greatest joy in a Bible Study and spend all their time looking for someone they can talk with about what they have discovered.
The gift of exhortation is seen in those who are “spiritual cheerleaders.” They motivate others both by example and positive words of encouragement.
This is the gift of the overseer. This person is Gods steward and make sure that the affairs of the Church are in good order.
This gift is found in those that God has provided the ability to give of their material resources. They give far beyond their tithe, sometime even beyond their means to carry out the Lord’s work
This gifted individual has an overwhelming concern for everyone around them. They feel the hurts or others as if they were their own.
The Evangelist (Proclaiming the Gospel)
This is the gift of a missionary, it is the special gift and calling of God to take the Gospel to people and lands around the world.
The Pastor/ Teacher (Pastoring and Teaching.)
The shepherd of the Lord’s church whose greatest desire is to care for and teach the flock of that God has given to him.
Everyone has at least one gift, most have several with one or two being prominent.
It is not important whether you call it a gift, a talent or an ability. All these things as we have seen are given in the providence of God and therefore He can use them through us no matter what we label them or when we think we received them.
There are several resources you can use to discover your spiritual gifts.
Parents, Pastors, Spouses and Christian Friends all will have insight into your service for God.
There are “Spiritual Gift Inventory or tests that can be used as well. Just be careful you use one that differentiates between the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans –Ephesians.
I recommend “The Spiritual Gifts Inventory” by Dr. Larry Gilbert available through Church Growth Institute. I have used it several times over the years and its ease of use and clear results make it one of the best. It is now online at http://gifts.churchgrowth.org/spiritual-gifts-survey/
Transition:Why then has God given the gifts? Are they simply ways in which we can serve God as individuals in the church or is there something much bigger in view? Go to Ephesians 4 to see the process that God has given for the gifts to be fully realized in the church today.
Ephesians 4:8-16 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 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: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Ephesians gives us the process by which the gifts are to work within the Church
First Stage: Unity of Faith and Knowledge, Measure of fullness of Christ Eph 4:11-13
Step One: Gifts Given to the church vs. 11
Gifts now are to the whole body of Christ
These gifts are the leaders and teachers of the church given by God to the body.
Step Two: Intermediate purpose of these gifts vs. 12
These leader/teachers are to equip (fill-up/complete) the saints
That those completed saints may do the work of the ministry
Many think this is the final purpose of the gifts. It is only the very beginning of the beginning of the purpose of the gifts.
What is the work of the ministry? According to Paul it is the edifying of the body of Christ.
This word edifying means “building up.” I think Paul is saying the purpose of God’s spiritual gifts in the members and the gift of leader/teachers to the members is to equip them in the ministry of building up the church.
But we still are only at the beginning of the beginning of God’s purpose of gifts in the church.
Step Three: First Transition Purpose vs. 13
Till we all come, each of us, every member, every leader and teacher. Where? What is the destination of all of us using the gifts of God?
Till we come in unity of the faith and in unity the knowledge of the Son of God, to a complete, mature man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
This is the first purpose of the gifts in the church.
It is not for boasting or bragging or show.
It is to bring all of us in the church to a first stage of maturity that we now can begin to set as our spiritual and life goals as achieving the measure of the fullness of Christ!
Illustration: when I was a boy I would stand back to back next to my dad and my mom would measure us and tell me how much further I had until I was as tall as my dad. This is what Paul is talking about. You have come to the place that you can see the kind of person, the kind of Christian God wants you to be. He wants you to be like Christ!
You can’t get to end of this first stage without taking each of the steps. Without the gifts, without the equipping, without the work of the ministry, without the building up in love, you don’t come to a mature child of God, to set your sights of the fullness of Christ. It’s not going to happen without these steps.
Now notice the connecting word “that” it shows the purpose of the now growing, maturing members of church.
Paul is not finished, no he has just begun. The first stage of setting our goals, our desire on “the measure of the fullness of Christ” is only a stage, a step, not a terminal goal.
Second Stage: Grow Into Christ In All Things Ephesians 4:14-15
No longer children. The maturity and growth in the first stage give us the ability to withstand the false doctrine, lies and deceit that Satan and his henchmen will use to ambush us.
This church now in its members has its eyes set on the measure of Christ and that is real strength that no changing wind of doctrine or sleight of man can overcome.
But, now speaking the truth in love, instead of being tossed to and fro by these shifting winds the body can now take the next step.
It may “grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Now it is not just a setting our sights on the measure of the fullness of Christ as we saw in the first stage but now we can grow up into him in all things!”
Notice in both the first and second stages of God’s plan for gifts in the church the end result is Christ. It is not growth for growth sake, not unity for unity’s sake, not knowledge for knowledge sake. It is all for the sake of Christ.
Paul under the direction of the Holy Spirit says, “You keep growing, you keep learning, you keep edifying each other that you may be in Him all things. Walking with him becomes walking in Him. praying to Him becomes praying in His name. Talking about Him becomes speaking as the very oracle of Jesus Christ.
Christ is the goal, Christ is the purpose!
Now notice once again the connecting word. It is “for whom” again showing the purpose of growing into Christ. This word connects us to the last stage of this process which began with the spiritual gifts given to the church.
Third Stage: Edification In Love Ephesians 4:16
Now we come to the ultimate purpose, the final reason, the end objective of why God gave gifts to the church.
From whom, From Christ.
The whole body fitly joined together and compacted. This is done by Christ working through those gifted members who have grown into Christ. It is not done from heaven downward but from earth heavenward. We are the body now grown to walk, talk and live as Christ on earth.
Now every joint, every part, every gift, every member, every leader, every teacher supplies what is needed. Every part is working effectually, not busy work, but work that accomplishes what God wills in this world. We become agents of God’s providence.
And look at the ultimate purpose of these gifts and growth into Christ. For the body makes “increase of itself unto the edifying of itself in love.”
The body grows, it is built up in love.
Isn’t that what we truly desire for our church? A church in which everyone has a part, everyone has a place of importance. Don’t we want a church that is growing not by marketing techniques or advertising campaigns but by true, self-giving, self-sacrificing agape love?
Yet too often we are impatient. We want to a shortcut. We want it at the very beginning of our Christian life and the beginning of our church life.
It is one of the problems of Christianity today, physical growth without spiritual maturity, self-serving growth without self-sacrificing love.
In God’s plan for his church we see its proper means and method. The emphasis is always on Christ. The purpose is always unity of faith and knowledge with the goal of seeking the fullness of Christ. This emphasis on Him brings about the love that is needed for the right kind of growth God wants for the church.
But it can only begin when we understand the gifts of God and the purpose that those gifts were given to achieve in the church.
Each of you has through God’s providence a gift that this church needs to grow.
Some of you have the gift of teaching you need to be teaching.
Some the gift of giving, you need to be giving.
Some the gift of administration or mercy or judgment. You should be using that gift in God’s service within this church. That is what He intended it to be used for.
Do you want to see your gifts achieve the purpose God gave them for?
Do you want your eyes set on the measure of the fullness of Christ?
Do you want to grow up into Him in all things?
Do you want to see a church truly edifying itself in love?
Then it begins with the surrender of your gift, of yourself to the Lord’s church, His body.
You must allow God leaders and teachers to equip you and then you must submit yourself to the work of the ministry, which is the building up of the body.
A church can’t come to “Building itself in Love” if it neglects the gifts God has given to the church or leaves out the stages of “Unity in Faith and Knowledge” and “Growing into Christ in All Things.” Each stage builds upon the other, one course rising upon the lower courses until the Church of Jesus Christ stands in this sin darkened world, a lighthouse of Christ’s love.