I cannot think of a topic more often discussed, disagreed upon, or even argued about in the church more than the topic of spiritual gifts. We have our continuationist and cessationist debates. We have our spiritual gift inventory folks and our folks who hate those little tests with a passion. We have significant scholarly disagreement on how to define the new testament understanding of the gift of prophecy.
In the midst of such a discussion, it is interesting when we actually see things written in Scripture about spiritual gifts. So very often, what is written in the Bible is so much less fantastic than some would like to make the gifts of God. And I found such a passage in Romans 1. In the midst of Paul’s greeting the Roman church and telling the Christians there about his desire to visit, he mentions spiritual gifts and then says what he means by them.
Romans 1:11-12 – 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
When Paul spoke of imparting a spiritual gift to the roman church, he was not talking about some mystical power source. He was not telling the church anything about empowering them to heal, speak in tongues, or prophesy. Instead, Paul immediately defines what he meant here by saying that he wanted the spiritual blessing of mutual encouragement.
There is a major point here that is often missed by both sides of the continuationist cessationist debate. Regardless of what you believe about the modern existence of revelatory sign gifts once the canon of Scripture was closed, the purpose for spiritual gifts is what we so often ignore. The gifts that God has blessed his church with are for the building up of the body. This is not so that people would feel that they had any sort of superior abilities to other Christians or so that people could be enamored by the mystical. Instead, the point of the gifts that Paul wanted to impart in Rome was so that the local church might grow together in their love of Christ. It was not about show. It was not about sensuality. It was about loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ just as the Lord Jesus called us to do.
John 13:34-35 – 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Think about the less glamorous spiritual gifts—the ones that we pay little attention to: serving, hospitality, mercy, encouraging, teaching, leading, etc. Such gifts are not the ones people are arguing about. But the point of these gifts is what Paul is talking about. As we come together as a family in Christ, God has gifted and shaped every last one of us to matter in the body. God has designed us to encourage each other, to build one another up. And God has done this in a supernatural way, a Holy Spirit filled way, so that we need one another to be built up as the church is supposed to be.
So, do you want to experience spiritual gifts? Join a church and jump in. Share your life with other believers. Open the word of God together. Pray together. Be committed to one another. Care for each other in times of pain. Work together for the growth of the church. Walk with each other through the sorrows and joys of life. And as you build each other up in the faith, you will be experiencing the genuine, never-ending spiritual gifts and their genuine purposes.
Go the other direction with this thought. What happens if you are not committed to a local church? What happens if you refuse to really connect with the church? You are taking from yourself the ability to have the spiritual gifts Paul was referring to in Romans 1. You are also failing to help others who need you in their church body to experience the kind of mutually encouraging gifting that God commands.