How to Know Your Spiritual Gift (and Why that’s Important)
JULY 14, 2021
In America we are very big on the individual.
I love the story about the third grade teacher who asked her class if anyone knew of something right now that wasn’t around ten years before. A little boy in the front row raised his hand and said, “Oh, yes. Me!” I’m glad for the emphasis in the country where I live on the importance and the value of the individual.
However, the truth is that our emphasis on the individual causes many of us to miss the biblical emphasis on the community of faith—a community created by the Holy Spirit, sustained by the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and lifted up in the eyes of the world by the Holy Spirit. It is important to remember that when God calls an individual, He always calls a bunch. When you became a Christian, it wasn’t a “just you and me, God” kind of thing. You became part of the church, the body of Christ. Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit, the operative power of the Trinity, was the One who started the Christian family and has been heavily involved from the beginning (Acts 2:1-4). Because that is true, the church is an eternal institution.
Christians recognize that the church is created and empowered by none other than the Holy Spirit of the God of the universe. “Mother” church will sometimes be sick, she will get wounded, she will do some really dumb, silly, and sinful things, she will even sometimes have the look of death about her—but she will never die. That is because of the Holy Spirit.
In fact one of the best arguments for the existence of God is the fact of the church. Given the way the church has been persecuted in times of trial and mismanaged in times of calm, there is no natural explanation for her continued existence. Similarly, there is a long line of tyrants and despots who have tried to destroy the church. All of them are either dead or soon will be.
With all of its pain, its glory, its failure, its sin, and its sickness, the church is eternal.
When Jesus returns, the church will still be trucking: “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
There is a wonderful verse in 1 Corinthians 3:16. Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
When Paul uses the word you, it isn’t singular, it’s plural. In other words, he was not referring to an individual—he was referring to a “bunch.” For those of us who are from the South, he was saying that “ya’ll” are a temple of the Spirit. (Or for those of you who are true Southerners, you know that when you refer to a lot of folks, you properly say, “All ya’ll.”)
Let me show you something else. When Paul used the word temple, he had a variety of Greek words from which to choose, all of which would have referred to the temple or a part of it. He used a particular word that refers only to the sacred sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. That’s important because the Holy of Holies was the place where God Himself resided. It was the place where only the high priest could enter, only once a year on the Day of Atonement, and that only after an elaborate series of ritual cleansings. Not only that, I’m told that when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he did it with a rope tied to his ankle so, should the high priest have a coronary, he could be pulled out without others going into such a holy place.
So we see something important in the verse that isn’t immediately apparent, to wit, the resident place of the God of the universe, the Holy Spirit, is in the church, the family of God! When the ushers count the people in the pews, they ought to count One more. When we are together as God’s people, there is great power because God is there. While there is great power in individual prayers, individual action, and individual worship, it doesn’t even come close to the power of the community of Christ.
The Holy Spirit has a special place of residence, concern, and compassion, and it is the church. The church is His project. He is, as it were, molding the people of God so that they can demonstrate with their model what God is like, how He treats those who turn to Him, and what He gives to those who are His own.
Now the question before the house is this: How does the Holy Spirit do it?
Paul points out that the church is interdependent. He uses the imagery of the body of Christ and suggests that the body has been created in a way that presupposes the need for each member to depend on the other members: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, italics mine).
In other words, the Bible teaches that every Christian has a gift given to him or her by none other than the Holy Spirit. That gift, whatever it is, is vital for home maintenance; and without the gifts given by the Spirit, we are incomplete.
The basic word from which the term “spiritual gift” is taken is the Greek word charis. Paul uses three other words that are translated “gifts”—they are dorea, doma, and pneumatika, the last one literally meaning “things belonging to the Spirit.” The literal translation of charis implies that the spiritual gifts are unmerited.
I believe the Bible teaches that there are a variety of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ. Some will tell you that there is a limited number of gifts. Generally they will refer to the eighteen listed in the New Testament. However, because the lists are not the same and do not appear to be exhaustive, I believe the list could be expanded and limited only by the particular need and desire of the Holy Spirit to work in the church and in the world. I would suggest that the Bible mentions at least twenty gifts of the Holy Spirit. And, again, I believe the gifts of the Spirit are far greater in number than those listed in the Bible.
If you are a believer, you have a spiritual gift, and that gift is either in reality or in potential. Paul says that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one” of the members of God’s family (1 Corinthians 12:7). Peter makes it clear that each member of the church has a useful gift: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
In practical terms that means that if you are a believer, the Holy Spirit has singled you out for a gift that is supernaturally endowed, supernaturally empowered, and is to be supernaturally used. Not only that, it means that if you are a part of the body of Christ and are not exercising your gift from the Holy Spirit, the rest of us who are a part of the same body are incomplete.
Every member (every Christian is automatically a member of the church of Christ) is important and has been given a special gift from our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Something of “us” is missing when any Christian fails to utilize his or her gift.
How do you know which spiritual gift you have?
After you have prayed about the gift and asked God to reveal it, let me suggest that you ask yourself five questions:
1. What do I like to do for the King?
2. As I try different ministries, what does God bless?
3. Where do my brothers and sisters in Christ affirm me?
4. What are my opportunities?
5. Where is my burden?
God never intended Christians to minister and live by themselves. He put us together for a reason.
Adapted from Steve’s book on the Holy Spirit, Follow the Wind.