What Are Spiritual Gifts?
God Equips Us to Grow His Kingdom
The Bible talks about “gifts of the Spirit,” which we commonly call spiritual gifts (not to be confused with spiritual disciplines). Paul teaches about spiritual gifts extensively in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Here’s what we can learn from him.
They Come from the Holy Spirit
God’s Holy Spirit supernaturally endows us with special abilities. This includes different types of service and work, but they’re all the result of God at work in us and through us (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
They Are for the Common Good of Jesus’s Followers
The gifts of the Spirit that God gives us are intended to benefit others, not ourselves. They help the church community, or they serve others outside the church. Sometimes they do both. When used properly, our spiritual gifts advance the kingdom of God, for his glory (1 Corinthians 12:7).
God doesn’t equip us with the same supernatural abilities. He gives each of us the spiritual gift or gifts needed to accomplish his divine purpose. Though we may wish to be gifted like someone else, we would be wrong to desire that person’s gift or begrudge them. God gave them the gift he did and us with our gift because he is sovereign (a good sovereign), able to do whatever he wishes (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).
One Body with Different Parts
Paul gives the Corinthians—and us—an example to help us understand how and why God allocates spiritual gifts the way he does. Think of a person with different body parts: a head, ears, eyes, hands, feet, and so forth. Each part has a key purpose, and without one or more of our body parts, we would struggle to fully function.
The same is true with the church—that is, the body of Christ. For the church body to function as it should, all parts must be present and work together, each doing what it is designed to do. Just as the human body has diversity in its components, so does the church. Through a diversity of people with various spiritual gifts, our church can become a unified whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
A Pursuit Higher than Spiritual Gifts
It’s exciting that God gives us special abilities (spiritual gifts) to equip us to serve and to work. Yet we should not overemphasize or become proud of the gifts he gave us.
Something is more important than any type of spiritual gift. And this is something for all of us. It’s something we can all do. Paul calls this the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).
What is it? Love (1 Corinthians 13).
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.