Whenever we talk about spiritual gifts, there is often a lot of heat generated in the conversation. What should we say about those who differ from our views on what gifts are active today? How do we explain what some people claim is happening around the world while others are sure those things are not true? How do we deal with the seeming abuse of gifts in certain circles?
I want to say something very definitive on spiritual gifts with this post. It is extremely important we get this truth, even if we do not know exactly how to handle everything said about spiritual gifts, strange fire, and all the rest. This is not to say that I do not have a strong belief about the other topics, but to say that I believe that there is something that is perhaps even more urgent for us as the church.
1 Corinthians 12:7 – To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about gifts, he began with the principle in the verse above. The gifts of God are given to individual believers for the sake of the good of the body of Christ. If you are gifted in any way, the gifting is for the sake of the good of the local church. And be sure of this, every individual believer is gifted by the Spirit of God.
So, Christian, hear this truth. You have been given a gift by God. Perhaps you are gifted to handle the word in a powerful way. Perhaps you are gifted to care for others in need. Perhaps you are gifted to speak into the lives of others with a spiritually empowered ability that others find truly helpful. Perhaps you have some other gift. The gift that you have been given is not at all for your own personal benefit. The gift you have been given is intended by God for you to use in the local congregation for the overall good of the church.
So, when you think about your spiritual gifts, do not worry about a spiritual gift inventory. Neither should you focus on hoping for a gift that looks more supernatural than the gifts that others have. Nor should you expect your gift to be there to give you a really deep personal thrill. The point of your gift is that you put it to use so as to help others in the body love Jesus more. That is it: help others in your local church love Jesus more.
By the way, this also means that you cannot experience your spiritual gifting without being a committed part of a local church body. If you are not connected to a local body, serving under the leadership of biblical elders, giving of yourself to help others in that particular congregation love Jesus more, you are not doing what your gift is intended for. (Yes, I realize that there may be someone with a traveling ministry or missional calling, and I’m not dealing with that here.) If you will not use your gifts to help the local body, you are not really using your gifts.
On the simplest level, then, spiritual gifts should make you be regularly present with your local church body. Spiritual gifts should make you love others in the body. And you cannot love others in the body faithfully if you do not make attendance a priority. You will be where the people of God are gathered if you want to use and experience your spiritual gifts. And you will be where the body is gathered if you want to experience and benefit from the gifts of others. To absent yourself from the body is to do the body harm as you withhold your gifts. To absent yourself from the body is to do yourself harm as you prevent yourself from benefitting from the gifts of others.
I know, many would love it if we could have a nice argument on continuationism or cessationism. I have those arguments to make, and I think they are very important. But I think it is more important that we be committed, out of love, to be together with the local body of Christ, that we be committed to one another, that we do not give up meeting together (Heb. 10:24-25), that we care for each other, that we grow together in Christ, and that this is how we experience our gifts. Your gifts are for the body and for the glory of God. Your gifts will give you joy as you glorify God by investing your life in the lives of those others to whom you are committed in the local church. This is the definitive word on spiritual gifts to which all other arguments should be subject.