Spiritual Gifts

(Rom. 12:3-8)
Spiritual Gifts

Today’s lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    II. God’s Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39
      III. Israel’s Temporary Rejection of God’s Righteousness in Jesus Christ (9:1-11:36)
        IV. Practical Applications of God’s Righteousness in Life (12:1-15:13)

             Complete Surrender to God (12:1-2)
             Proper Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12:3-8)
             Love for the Church (12:9-13)
             Love for Persecutors (12:14-21)
             Christian Citizenship (13:1-7)
             Primacy of Love (13:8-10)
             The Nearness of the Day of the Lord Motivates Us to Live Righteously (13:11-14)
             Care for the Weaker Christian (14:1-15:13)


        In Rom. 8:1-11 Paul has stated that the only way to experience God's righteousness on a daily basis is to follow the Spirit. In Rom. 12:1-2 Paul has stated that the only appropriate response to what God has done for us in sacrificing Christ and by the gift of the Spirit is offering ourselves totally to God. In Rom. 12:3-15:13 Paul will share how the Spirit will guide us in the different areas of our lives. The first area is the use of spiritual gifts.

        Before looking at spiritual gifts, we need to distinguish between spiritual gifts, talents, and skills. A talent is an ability that you are born with. For example, some people are musically talented, some more so than others. Every now and then you will find a child prodigy who at the age 7 can sit down and play a Beethoven sonata on the piano. Now that is talent. Some people just have a knack for things mechanical. Whatever they see something broken, they can fix it and fix it well. A skill, on the other hand, is a learned ability. I know how to operate certain machines because I have been trained in those areas. It takes a lot of hard work for me to master that skill; however, I can master it. Those who are talented in those areas pick them up really easily. Every person (non-Christian as well as Christian) created will have a talent and can even possibly develop a skill. (There may be some exceptions; I just know of none.)

        A spiritual gift, on the other hand, is a gift or ability that only Christians have. The only persons who have the Holy Spirit living within them are Christians. In fact His presence in your life is the indisputable piece of evidence you are a Christian (Rom. 8:9). If He lives in you, you are a Christian no matter how poorly you articulate your faith. On the other hand, if He does not live in you, you are not a Christian no matter how articulate you are about Christ and your faith. Every time the Spirit enters a person, He brings with Him a spiritual gift. In fact the spiritual gift is the Spirit operating in you and through you. (Sitting in the pew and doing nothing is not a spiritual gift.)

        What is the difference between having the gift of preaching (part of the gift of prophecy) and having the skill of oratory? What is the difference between the talent and skill of teaching and the spiritual gift of teaching? The talent of teaching can impart information. The gift of teaching can actually produce spiritual life within that person, a dramatic difference. Simply because somebody is a good teacher at school does not mean he is a good teacher at church. They don't necessarily go together because a non-Christian can be an excellent teacher at school but a disaster at church.

        Why did God give us talents, skills, and spiritual gifts? The first 2 are meant to help develop God's original creation—the world. The spiritual gifts are meant to help develop God's new creation—the church. God loves both of His creations and has endowed us with these talents, skills, and gifts to help develop them. You and I will stand before God in judgment one day and give an account for the way we have used these talents, gifts, and skills (Matt. 25:14-30).

        (3) For through the grace given to me, I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each man a measure of faith. (4) For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, (5) so we who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

        Paul has 3 major passages on spiritual gifts in his letters: the present passage, Eph. 4:1-12, and 1 Cor. 12-14. He introduces each passage by stressing the need of humility when using spiritual gifts. According to Phil. 2:3 how does Paul define humility?

        According to Rom. 12:3 in order to be humble, what should we not do?

        In 1 Cor. 12:14-27 Paul deals with this issue at length. Most Christians view some spiritual gifts as being more "important" than other spiritual gifts. What does Paul say should NOT be the attitude of the eye towards the ear in 1 Cor. 12:21?

        In 1 Cor. 12:15 Paul addresses those Christians who feel that their gift is not as important as, say, the priest’s gift. What does Paul say to the foot?

        If you think the gift of helps is not important, think what it would be like on Sunday morning not to have ushers welcoming you at the door, or ushers handing out bulletins as you enter the sanctuary. Try serving a Valentine banquet without using people with the gift of helps. A lot of the workers in the preschool and children's areas have the gift of helps so that church members with "more important" spiritual gifts can go help adults.

        The image Paul uses to discuss the relationship of the spiritual gifts to the church is that of the body to individual parts of the body. Each part is necessary if it is going to be a body. We can be a great big tongue; however, that would be grotesque. We need to value each and every part of the body.

        According to Phil. 2:8 how did Jesus humble Himself before the Father? When Paul urges the Philippians to be humble in 2:12, what does he command them to do?

        Now it is easy being humble towards God. The only problem is that when we are humble towards God, He commands us to be humble towards other people. There's the rub. Although it is definitely true that I am responsible to God for my own life and actions, when I interact with the church, I now must work within the parameters the church has set for me. The church has the right and the responsibility to set those parameters. It has the right to determine under God what should be the policies of the church regarding the exercise of the gifts and who should be the spiritual leaders who will guide the church in the exercise of those gifts (Heb. 13:17; see also 1 Thess. 5:12). Hopefully, the parameters will be loose enough so that the Spirit can breathe but also tight enough so that the church does not turn into a free-for-all.

        (6)Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to each of us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy according to the proportion of his faith, (7) if service, in his serving, or he who teaches in his teaching, (8) or he who exhorts in his exhortation, he who gives with liberality, he who leads with diligence, he who shows mercy with cheerfulness.

        Below I have given you a representative list of the different spiritual gifts Paul enumerates throughout his letters. Read the definition of each gift slowly. After reading the list, go back and circle the three top gifts in your life.

        According to Paul the following are the top three gifts:

          Apostleship. The apostles were those who had witnessed the resurrection of Christ and who had been appointed by Him as His official spokespersons. The entire NT is based either upon the writings of the apostles (the letters of Paul) or upon the writings of those close to the apostles (Mark and Luke). They were also instrumental in the establishment of the various churches (for example, Paul in establishing his churches). Today the gift of apostleship appears to be restricted to the bishops who guide the Church.

          Prophecy. This normally has 2 different aspects to it: (1) the ability to predict the future (Acts 11:27-30) and/or (2) the ability to speak God's specific word to a specific audience at a specific point in time. These prophecies are not restricted to God's written Word; however, they will always harmonize with God's Word, never contradict it.

          Teaching/Insight . The ability to communicate the teaching of God's written Word to His people. The teacher normally also has the gift of insight into God's Word.

          Why do you feel that Paul claims that these are the top 3 spiritual gifts given to the church?

          Miracles. The gift by which the Spirit performs miracles through a Christian. In the NT we see the Spirit working through people to feed 5000, to still a raging sea, to strike dead a lying Christian, to rescue Christian prisoners, and to unleash timely earthquakes.

          Gifts of Healing. The ability from the Spirit to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons.

          Helps. The ability from the Spirit to carry out "mundane" matters, such as, serving meals at banquets, helping others in need, filling out records, etc.

          Administration/Leadership. The ability from the Spirit to lead out and/or to organize. Some people are organizers but not leaders; others are leaders but not necessarily organizers.

          Mercy. The ability from the Spirit to minister to people in time of need, such as, sickness, death, financial or material loss, etc. They minister either through words or actions, or even both.

          Faith. The ability from the Spirit to have a constant, thriving positive outlook on the present and the future.

          Giving. The ability from the Spirit to give financially in an extraordinary manner. The cases of Latourneau and John Wesley are prime examples. By the end of his life, Latourneau was giving 90% of his income to the Lord and living on 10%.

          Evangelism. The ability from the Spirit to lead large numbers to the Lord for salvation. Although every Christian is to engage in evangelism, only the "evangelists" are going to be wildly successful.

          Discernment. The ability from the Spirit to know whether a person is speaking God's Word or his own word, or whether a person is pushing God's agenda or his own agenda.

          Interpretation of Tongues. The ability from the Spirit to interpret what a person with the gift of tongues is saying.

          Tongues. The ability from the Spirit to speak to God in a heavenly language. It always leads to the edification of the person speaking in tongues but also to the edification of the church if an interpreter is present. Paul lists this as the "least of the gifts." Why do you feel that Paul lists this as the least of the gifts, especially whenever an interpreter is not present?

        Now which 3 spiritual gifts best characterize you?

        Why should you use your spiritual gifts? Yes, you are going to be judged on the basis of your use of your gift; however, something even better should motivate us. People who use their spiritual gifts under the direction of the Spirit experience His presence in a more dramatic way that those Christians who do not. I sense His presence as I teach in a way I do not whenever I don't teach. I sense in my mother the presence of the Lord whenever she uses her gift of mercy to minister to people in crisis. The priest loves to preach because the Spirit moves in him and through him. Do yourself a favor and use your gift.

        Earlier I said that 1 Cor. 12-14 is one of the major passages in which Paul discusses spiritual gifts. The unusual thing about this passage is that 1 Cor. 13 deals with the issue of love. Why does Paul sandwich the chapter on love with 2 chapters on spiritual gifts? Read 1 Cor. 13:1-3 and write down the relationship between love and the exercise of spiritual gifts.