Spiritual Gifts: What are they for?

Posted on July 20, 2011


Spiritual gifts: this has to be one of the most touchy subjects in all of Christendom next to baptism. Unfortunately, it has divided the Body of Christ into different sects and denominations. So I’m fully aware what I may be getting myself into here. So feel free to disagree.

For much of my young Christian life I sought to discover what my gifts were and what they looked like practically. I prayed, I studied the Scriptures, I examined and analyzed myself to the point of exhaustion to try to figure out what my gifts were. All to no avail. It wasn’t until recently that I began to see certain things that have revolutionized my views of spiritual gifts.

About a year ago I finally was able to lay down–and let die–my pursuit of gifts. I did this by turning my attention to the Giver, instead of the things received. If we focus our attention on Jesus Christ and become willing to be giftless, then we will, from my experience, be able to actually figure out what our gifts are and what they are for. So let’s start with just that–what are gifts for?

Paul says to the Corinthian Church after they had gotten caught up in a similar quest in seeking gifts says after explaining that we are all “of the same Spirit,”

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

He then goes on to describe some of these “manifestations.” The key phrase in this passage is “common good.” Not “individual good,” or “singular good.” No, the common good, or, better put, the good of the community.

Also in his letter to the Ephesians he echoes the same call:

 …so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13 NIV)

Again, the key is community–he puts it in this passage as “the body of Christ”. What is being said in both of these passages to two different churches is that gifts are not for the individual’s enjoyment. They are for the whole body of Christ. They are to be used to serve the body of Christ, the church, the saints, the Bride, the brethren, the children of God.

Your gifts are not for you. My gifts are not for me. All things are to, through, by, and for Christ.

Spiritual gifts are for the expression, the manifestation, the representation, the revelation, the sighting, the witnessing, the declaration of, and the glorification of Jesus Christ. Spiritual gifts are for the service and ministry of the body of Christ–the assembly of the Firstborn. Not for our own enjoyment and use though they can be used and enjoyed, but that’s not the reason they exist.

Outside of community, spiritual giftings don’t make sense. What’s the purpose of giftings if we hoard them or hold them over someone else’s head? That’s not walking in love. It appears to be a reason that Paul emphasized love in the chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians directly after speaking of spiritual gifts in chapter 12. That’s just a thought though, I’ll let you sit on that one :).

What is also quite clear in these passages (I would advise you to read the entire piece of both passages after reading this) is that each person has a special gifting. We all have gifts from the Spirit. Without each member’s gifting, then we can’t come into the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. Each has a portion of Him inside of us, and the body can’t do without even one of them. This is what Paul was speaking of in 1 Corinthians when he goes into how each of the body parts of Christ need one another and can’t do without. (How the eye can’t say to the hand “I don’t need you!”, and the head can’t say to the feet “I don’t need you!” [12:21-26])

I need the portion of Christ that you, yes you, have. I can’t do without it. Only pride and arrogance says that individuals are more important and their gifts more needed than someone else’s. That person isn’t thinking corporately, but as an individual.

So gifts aren’t for me, and they aren’t for you. They are for the Lord and the building up and edification of the church. By flowing in your gifts, you are serving the bride of Christ. But it really comes down to where your heart is.

May the Lord reveal more and more, that though we are dearly loved and cherished, and that we play a huge role in things, that it isn’t about us, our individual ministries, or our giftings. It is about Jesus Christ and His eternal purpose through the church. The summing up of all things in the Son.