Every believer has been given a special gift to aid them in their service for the Lord, and to benefit the whole body of Christ. These spiritual gifts are special abilities, and they are supernatural, although they do not always appear to be "miraculous" in the conventional sense of the word. Spiritual gifts are "spiritual", in that they do not come from man, although they could be given by apostolic power as in the case of Timothy (2 Tim. 1:6). People are not born with spiritual gifts, nor can they be gained by study or theological training. They are conveyed to a believer by the Holy Spirit upon salvation; hence they are "gifts". You cannot purchase a gift of God with money (Acts 8:20). God can use “unlearned and ignorant men” like Peter and John the fishermen, or He can use a well-educated man like the Apostle Paul, who learned at Gamaliel's feet. The Spirit uses "whom He will" (1 Cor. 12:11). I do not believe the lists of gifts in scripture are exhaustive, but they do give us generally the spheres of Christian ministry.
- Prophets† (Prophecy*)
- Discerning Spirits‡
- Interpreting Tongues‡
Charismata and domata. Two different Greek words are used for a spiritual gift. The first is charismata, used in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4. Charismata means "gracious gift", and it refers to a special ability given to a Christian to enable their service for the Lord. Once a person has been given a charismata, it can never be taken away. In 1 Tim 4:14 and 2 Tim. 1:6 we have the expression "the charismatos (gracious gift) that is in thee". Timothy had been given a spiritual gift, and it remained inside him, even if he wasn't using it. The second word is domata, used in Ephesians 4. Domata means "gift" in a broader sense, and it refers to a person who is given to the universal Church to edify and build her up. The Apostle Paul had a charismata (teaching), but he was a domata (a teacher). We are told that every believer has a charismata, but not every believer is a domata. That being said, there is a slight difference in charismata as used in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.
These spiritual gifts are mentioned in a number of different contexts, and it is helpful to keep in mind the distinctions between gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12, etc.I will go through these three primary passages in detail, but a brief summary is shown below in tabular format:
|Reference||Ephesians 4||1 Corinthians 12||Romans 12|
|Giver & Recipient||Given by Christ to the Church||Given by the Spirit to the member||Given by God to the member|
|The Gift||The gift is the person themselves.||The gift is a manifestation of the Spirit’s power in special abilities and skills.||The gift is an allotment of grace given to the member to empower their ministry.|
|The Scope||The whole body; the universal assembly is impacted.||The local assembly; although not limited to that sphere.||The individual’s service; although not limited to that sphere.|
There is a great deal of misunderstanding today with regard to these gifts. I will make a few brief points. First, these gifts were given as a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22). It was very rare for the apostles to heal believers (one exception might be when Peter healed Dorcas; Acts 9:36-42), and they never used their gifts to heal themselves. Secondly, sign gifts were given to confirm the spoken Word of God. When the apostles went forth, the Lord worked with them, allowing them to perform miracles, etc. "confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20, see also Hebrews 2:3-4). Thirdly, scripture indicates that sign gifts would fade with time (1 Cor. 13:8). F.B. Hole gave the example of a new ship. When a new ship first sails out of the harbor on it's maiden voyage, it is covered with flags and streamers to mark the occasion. But once the voyage is underway, those flags are taken down, and the regular operation of the ship commences. It was fitting that God would mark the early days of the Church with these signs, but now their use has faded, except perhaps in mission fields etc. where they are really needed to reach the unbeliever.
“Many think that the one qualification of the servant of God is that of the Spirit. This is, of course, essential, and most blessed; but it is not all. The truth is that Christ gives gifts; but He gives them “according to the ability” of the individual. The union of the two facts, the ability of the servant and the sovereignly-bestowed gift given him to trade with, is of all-importance to keep distinctly in view.”1
- Do what the Lord has put in front of you. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecc. 9:10). If the Lord puts something on our heart, perhaps to share the gospel with someone, or some other service, we need to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are many Christians who have never discovered their gift because they have never acted on the urging of the Spirit, and as a result their gift lies dormant and undeveloped.
- It will fit you. When you are serving the Lord in the area aligned with your gift it will feel like you were made for it… because you were! This doesn’t mean it will be easy. We still have the flesh, which is lazy, disobedient, discontent, etc. Our service may also entail suffering, rejection, hard labor, etc. which are also not easy. Nonetheless, there will be a certain suitability between the servant and the service when the gift is being used.
- The Lord might confirm it by prophecy. Often the Lord will confirm to His servants that they have a certain gift through prophecy. We have an example of this with Timothy. His gift was said to be given him “through prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the elderhood” (1 Tim. 4:14). This means that the Spirit of God led certain prophets to speak to Timothy or others that Timothy had a gift. Then the elders laid their hands on Timothy, showing their fellowship with him in his service. The same can be true today. The Lord may lead certain ones to speak to you and encourage you in your service. If it is merely human opinion it means nothing, but if it is the leading of the Spirit of God through them to utter a prophecy, it may be the Lord’s work of confirming to you that you have this or that gift.
Three Spheres of Christian Activity. What God has asked the believer to do (i.e. Christian activity) can be largely divided into three spheres: office, gift, and priesthood. When all of these spheres are maintained in their proper order, the result is the God is glorified and His people are blessed. There is a danger of confusing the various spheres of activity, and this can lead to serious trouble.Read more…