Summary: The problem with Spiritual gifts is that they were intended to empower and unify the church and yet somehow we have allow the things that were designed to bring us together tear us apart. What are Spiritual gifts and what is their purpose?
5: A Life of Meaning Series
February 1st, 2008
The subject of Spiritual gifts may be one of the more controversial issues in the church today. There are many different opinions as to what they mean and how they are visible in the body. Rather than focusing on the existence or expression of these gifts it would seem more prudent to say this: Scripture talks about gifts in multiple places so we can safely conclude they are real and that they are important. What the real issue then becomes is not are spiritual gifts real or what do they look like, but what are the gifts for? We get glimpses of the purpose or function of Spiritual gifts all throughout Scripture. We see them in the book of Acts, in Romans, in Corinthians, and in Hebrews. While all of these different passages tell us about Spiritual gifts and what they do we are still left with one question: why? Why do Spiritual gifts exist at all?
To answer this question we must look at a number of different passages in Scripture so that we may find the reason for the existence of these gifts. One possible place to look is in Romans 1 starting in verse 11. Perhaps the answer to the question is found in the seeing the purpose of the gifts:
Ro 1:11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— Ro 1:12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
This passage tells us a bit about how gifts are to be used. In Romans 1:11 we see Paul say “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.” This statement is easy to misunderstand because it is somewhat misleading. It would seem that Paul is saying that he longs to come to see the Romans so that he can give them some spiritual gift and make them strong. That is not however what Paul is trying to say. He wants to impart with them some spiritual gift he does not mean I want to give you a gift as the English translations might make it appear. The word he uses here implies more that he wants to help by using his gift to encourage and strengthen the church. He isn’t saying he wants to give them a gift he is saying he wants to encourage them by sharing with them where he could bless them with his spiritual gift. So we see that the purpose of Spiritual gifts are for the strengthening others. Understanding their purpose helps us understand the Spiritual gifts but it does not answer the question of why we have them in the first place. So why do we have Spiritual gifts?
1 Corinthians 12 talks about Spiritual gifts and begins by telling us not to be ignorant of Spiritual gifts, so perhaps there we will find the answer to our question. Maybe the reason we have Spiritual gifts is seen in what those gifts do or in who the gifts are from.
1Co 12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 1Co 12:2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 1Co 12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1Co 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 1Co 12:5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 1Co 12:6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 1Co 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1Co 12:8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 1Co 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 1Co 12:10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 1Co 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
We should not be ignorant of Spiritual gifts. That is, Paul wants the church to know and understand the origins, nature, and purpose of these spiritual gifts. If we are ignorant of Spiritual gifts we cannot hope to learn why we have them.