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April 27, 2023 / by Pastor Scott Boerckel

Periodically, surveys of Christians are made on the matter of spiritual gifts. Here are some of the recent conclusions:

  • The number of people who claim the spiritual gift of “encouragement” is growing, and the number of people who claim the spiritual gift of “evangelism” is all but disappearing.
  • The focus of all Christians has increased on their giftings, abilities, and skills and has declined on the supernatural endowment of the Holy Spirit for given work in God’s kingdom.
  • Only about half of Christians see that the church is the place where spiritual gifts are developed and deployed.
  • Younger Christian adults claim to have better grasp on their spiritual gifts than older Christians and claim to be using them to a far greater degree than older Christians.

Clearly, there is a disconnect between how Christians are thinking these days and the scripture’s teaching on spiritual gifts. How can we learn to serve the Lord Jesus Christ with our spiritual gifts?

First, there are some ways that are likely to be ineffective. These ways are not necessarily wrong; they just won’t get you to the place where you know your gifts and how to use them. For example, many Christians take spiritual gift inventories which are designed to identify a Christian’s preferences and capabilities. It is not wrong to take such a survey, but it is important to note that such an inventory will likely be a better measuring stick of one’s personality than it will be a measuring stick of one’s spiritual gifts.

Another wrong way is to think of spiritual gifts as a means of personal improvement. Churches often offer spiritual gifts assessments for this wrong reason of catering to an individual’s hunger to be more fulfilled. The purpose of spiritual gifts is not personal fulfillment, even though many times the person who deploys their spiritual gifts often ends up having a sense of personal fulfillment. That is a secondary rather than a primary purpose of spiritual gifts.

So, the key question that this article addresses is: How can a person serve the Lord Jesus Christ with their spiritual gifts?

First, the person needs to be saved.

This is where many people can be confused today. Spiritual gifts are not talents, skills, or abilities that come from natural endowment. Spiritual gifts are given to the believer by the Holy Spirit when that believer comes into the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 describes this as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is NOT some ecstatic experience accompanied by the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. Rather, it is the full immersing of the believer into the body of Christ, the church, to serve that body with the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes individually as the Holy Spirit wills it. So, a person needs to be saved in order to have spiritual gifts, and the use of the spiritual gifts is for the building up of the church, Christ’s body. See how 1 Corinthians 12 describes the necessity of salvation and being placed in the body of Christ to serve the body with our spiritual gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11-13: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Second, the saved person needs to know that the purpose of his or her spiritual gifts is not personal fulfillment but the surrender of self for the building up of Christ’s body to the glory of God.

We can get testy if we think that gifts are about personal fulfillment. We can think that our gifts are underappreciated; we can think that not enough recognition is being given to ourselves or to others that we love. But the point of spiritual gifts is not the acknowledgement of them. The point of spiritual gifts is to serve the body of Christ in humility with them. See how Ephesians 4 describes how the purpose of spiritual gifts is for the building up of the body of Christ, not for personal fulfillment.

Ephesians 4:4-13: There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— ⁵ one Lord, one faith, one baptism, ⁶ one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. ⁷ But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. ⁸ Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” ⁹ (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Third, the saved person using his or her spiritual gifts for building up the body of Christ must do so with an intense focus on humility and sober judgment about oneself.

It is too easy to think that one gift is more important than another. It is too easy to imagine ourselves more highly than we should. See how Romans 12 describes how we ought to think of ourselves in the exercise of our spiritual gifts.

Romans 12:3-8: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. ⁴ For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, ⁵ so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ⁶ Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; ⁷ if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; ⁸ the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Fourth, the saved person using his or her spiritual gifts for building up the body of Christ in all humility must do all for the glory of God through Jesus Christ.

A great deal of emphasis can be misplaced on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the exercise of spiritual gifts. Indeed, the Spirit is the one who endows believers with spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11), BUT the goal is not to emphasize the Holy Spirit. The goal is ever to glorify God the Father through Jesus Christ. See how 1 Peter describes our great aim in the exercise of our spiritual gifts.

1 Peter 4:10-11: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Be on the look out for more instruction on spiritual gifts, particularly on how to identify our spiritual gifts in the sermons on 1 Corinthians during May and June.

May God be glorified through Jesus Christ as each believer at East White Oak with humility uses the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them to build up the body of Christ.