What Spiritual Gifts Are Not…

I Corinthians 12:4-6, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”

Popular and modern teachers of Spiritual Gifts have included many passages of gifting to teach one type of gifting from God to His Church.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17.

Not all of God’s gifts are what we narrowly classify (by definition) as Spiritual Gifts. But teachers and spiritual inventory tests improperly use the information from these variant passages as if the gifts in these passages were obtained supernaturally, given at salvation, the definition of a Spiritual Gift. The passages do not, however, definitively state that, leading to much confusion.

Illustrations of this are, first, Romans 12:6-8:

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 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.”

Obviously, we agree that these are gifts to the Church from the Gift-giver, but there is nothing in the passage that states they were given at salvation. These are the standard gifts of service that standard personality surveys reveal, but they will test out in a lost person just as in a saved person. These individuals and personalities are gifts to the Church, and the power to use them properly must be supernatural and dependent upon the Spirit for God to use them. But these are not Spiritual Gifts, based upon the definition.

Second, I can accept Ephesians 5:11-12 as being “Grace Gifts”, if you want to add another “variety” of ways Jesus gifted His people with what they need. “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift,” Ephesians 5:7.

But the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, given to equip the membership, are assignments, and also must be used in dependence of the Spirit’s leading. The text never implies that they can be defined as Spiritual Gifts, so their characteristics cannot be used to explain or discuss Spiritual Gifts.

In summary, we need to be careful when we teach Spiritual Gifts that we do not use discussions of God’s other varieties of giving to explain one type of gifts. We must only use the passages that refer specifically to Spiritual Gifts to teach Spiritual Gifts.

Also, we need to be very cautious that our research and teaching of Spiritual Gifts does not become an avenue of self-discovery and self-obsession, which attracts itchy ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Are we looking at how we can know God better and how God can use us more, or we trying to say we are finally good at something?


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