Wednesday, March 29, 2006

concerning spiritual gifts

Tonight we talked about spiritual gifts in my cell group and it reminded me of something I’ve always struggled with in relation to this topic.

Nearly every Christian I know believes that spiritual gifts are only given to Christians. My question is this: What about the people I know who are wise, or hospitable, or merciful, or knowledgeable, or a servant, or a great teacher or administrator or leader or encourager or pastor (in the sense that they “pastor” a group of tough kids, or addicts, etc.) or even evangelistic (great salesmen, for instance)? How do we explain these away?

I’ve heard some lame answers to this question. I’ve heard people explain that, before you are a Christian, some things are merely talents, but they become gifts once you are saved. ??? What?


I’m truly looking for some solid thoughts on this question, so fire away.

Comments on "concerning spiritual gifts"


Blogger bedemike said ... (6:22 AM) : 

I think we "pigeon hole" the idea of spiritual gifts too often. I have the same questions you do and at least one other. Are the gifts listed in the Bible meant to be an exhaustive list? It seems musicianship could be a gift. It's not mentioned, but it certainly lifts up the church and it's obvious some are naturally inclined that way.

It's a good question, one I've always had a hard time coming to grips with.


Blogger Nicole_Hostetler said ... (3:22 PM) : 

Ok, I'll try to give you my understanding without writing a sermon. I think that we are given different abilities/gifts/talents from birth. There are some who are patient, have a "knack" for instruction and teaching, and even some who have a keen discerning mind. What happeneds when we receive the Holy Spirit (again, my understanding) is that these aren't "magically" turned into spiritual gifts, but are fine tuned as we walk with God. As we learn about Him, learn to listen to the direction of the Spirit, and have our spiritual eyes/hearts cleansed by Jesus' blood...we can see the eternal and kingdom building significance of these abilities. We see them more as mere talents but as gifts bestowed upon us by God to reach His loved ones (saved and unsaved). What can also happen as we mature in our faith and grow in our service to God is that we may even find "hidden" gifts that without the Spirit-filled life we wouldn't know existed.
I hope this helped.


Blogger Dave C said ... (3:45 PM) : 

I think that we are born with certain talents...and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit after conversion they CAN be spiritual gifts.

A question for you: do you think that a person can have multiple spiritual gifts?

For Blood and Fire,

P.S. Brett, I don't think musicianship is a spiritual gift, that would be a talent.


Blogger shaun said ... (4:03 PM) : 

To comment on the issue of why we see "spiritual gifts" in people who are not Christians: Reformed theology (and some others) look to all men being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Even non-christians show glimpses of God's image when they show love, kindness, devotion, etc., but the image is clouded and corrupted by sin sometimes even being barely visible at all. Beleivers, on the other hand, are being renewed in the image of God and made more and mroe able to die to our sin and live to righteousness. (Eph. 4:22-24) I hope that is helpful for at least half of the question from one theological perspective.


Blogger shaun said ... (4:08 PM) : 

I just noticed how bad my spelling was in my little blurb...many apologies...Tim, I hope that doesn't reflect too poorly on our alma mater...


Blogger Larry said ... (5:36 PM) : 

If we are made in the image of God, I think we have gifts inherent to us, given by Him. I think scripture is plain too that gifts should be used to build up the church and that gifts can be for a season or for a lifetime. The Spirit decides.

I think I have seen unbelievers actually help the church through their gifts, whether it is hospitatlity, administration or giving etc. So if we believe that gifts are something intended to help the church, then I think we need to believe that gifts ARE given to everyone.

I hope I am not a heretic.


Blogger shaun said ... (8:19 PM) : 

I'm no church council but I think Larry's non-heretic status is pretty firm on this issue. The scriptures are pretty clear that God uses nonbelievers to bring about his purposes for his people. Not only do we see this in the New Testament (Acts 2:23ff) but he even calls Nebuchadnezzer his servant as he brings judgment in the Old Testament (Jer. 25:9, 27:6). I would say this points not only to the idea of all mankind being made in the image of God but also to the great mercy the Lord shows in His Providence and "Common Grace". (Tim, you'll have to forgive me for two Reformed theology plugs in one strand...I'm not sure what the Salvation Army stand is on such things...)


Blogger Pete said ... (9:20 PM) : 


Salvation Army theology is more or less Wesleyan, in general.

I can't speak for all, but I don't think any Reformed-speak is at all offensive or off-limits (doesn't bother me, anyway).


Blogger bedemike said ... (3:41 AM) : 

Dave -

Says who? If, as a talent, music is used by the guidance of the Holy Spirit to build up the church, why would it not be considered a gift? As with many other things, there are people (like me) who plug away at being musicians but cap out somewhere around mediocre. Then there are people who play/write music in a way that seems 2nd nature, that use that to facilitate worship & evangelism. Is it not possible that kind of "different level" musicianship is a gift from the HS?

This is not a post about music, but music (among other things) may be an indication that the kinds of gifts given and utilized by the Spirit might not fit into narrow categories.


Blogger Tim said ... (10:48 AM) : 


Your explanation that a talent becomes a gift once you become a Christian is the explanation I’ve always received on this topic. And, in my opinion, it’s an explanation that’s quite a stretch. It doesn’t make sense and seems, to me, to be self serving. In other words, it’s a way to explain away the fact that non-Christians seem to have many of the same gifts that we do.

The idea that we are all created in the image of God and, therefore, all receive certain gifts that, once we surrender to it, the Holy Spirit is able to fine tune seems to be a little more consistent with what I’ve experienced and seen around me.

Dave, I do think that people do received more than one gift. I think that most people have multiple gifts. I also base this one on what I’ve seen. But, like a talent, I think that gifts have to be used and, almost, practiced to be used well.

On the subject of music, I would like to point out that there also seems to be a difference between somebody who is a musician, and somebody who is an anointed worship leader. I’ve known tons of good musicians. And I’ve known tons of people who love to get up and play and try to lead worship. I’ve even known some amazingly skilled musicians who love to get up and play and try to lead worship. But I’ve known very few anointed worship leaders over the course of my life. And, btw, I don’t think that musicianship and the anointment of being a worship leader necessarily go hand in hand. I met a guy in Holland a couple of weeks ago whom I sensed was an anointed worship leader, yet was a crappy musician.

With that in mind, I would like to suggest that worship leading is actually a spiritual gift. I’ve not spent much time trying to find evidence of this in the Bible, but one example might be the fact that the children of Israel seemed to have designated worship leaders who actually walked ahead of the Ark of the Covenant.


Blogger bedemike said ... (5:27 PM) : 

Tim -

I think you are quite right regarding the leading of worship. We do that all the time - "You can sing (or play), so get up there & lead." I think your theory (?) reinforces the idea that maybe the list of gifts we read in the NT wasn't meant to be exhaustive.


Blogger Sean said ... (10:06 PM) : 

short answer ( disclaimer-my blanket opinion)
-NT giftlists are not exhaustive
-musiscianship= not a spiritual gift
-you can have more than one
-someone who is not a CHristian is not spiritually gifted. THey have personality that is in fact made in the image of Christ
-our gifts are not planted in at birth to be conjurred out later.
-though the lists are not exhaustive, I do not think they can be added to with any degee of certainty or authority.

- I have my own little take, but I will roll seperate as to feel less lengtyh


Blogger Sean said ... (10:11 PM) : 

MY take is that our spiritual gift is not an extension of a previously had talent. I believe that, though the gift lists seem not to be exhaustive, we can't add to them. So I can't say I have the gift of worship leader, per say. But I also feel like God, being all-knowing new my role in His church way before I did and began to weave talents and desires in me that would blossom into fruition to accentuate or help to buttress the gifts I have been given ( or will be).

That is no less confusing than everyone else's attempt to clarify, but I know that before I was following hard after God, I was a pretty good, unpolished musician. Leave in a room with an instrument for 15 minutes and I'll play you a song. I was not, however ever all that keen on playing things in front of anyone. Since I have known God in a real way, however I found my self no in front of people at most any opportunity, doing my music and leading people in worship. Not just singing out so people can know the tune, but actually bringing people to a place where they see God, are encouraged in their hearts to praise and glorify Him not just with their mouths. Spiritual gift? maybe. I have come to recognize that it is not the music that people respond to or the singing songs, but rather the exhortation that comes when empowering God's people to move. This is not something I can produce, I know because when I am not on my own game spiritually, my worship and my leading is in vain. It is only through the spirit does this occur. This is not something that is magically made better, it is something very specific that God has me do. I know it because my calling, the fruit that is produced and the confirmation of others in the body.

Someone who is spiritually gifted at hospitality isn't just nice, when you leave their presence, they have inspired you specifically in your own role within the church. Someone who is a gifted leader, governs diligently in such a way that people are thrust towards God and the furthering of His kingdom. Their gift may be along similar lines to their personality or some other talents, but when the rubber meets the road there is a supernaturally encouraging interchange when we are in the spirit and using our gifts with full humility and acceptance of our role in the body. Someone who is not a Christian is not only unconcerned with the things of God and His Church, that person is not filled with the Holy Spirit who, as scripture states, gives the gifts.

There is a big deal made about knowing who we are within the body, especially as compared to who we are not. As a Christian, I believe that you will know when somebody is working with or without the gift God gave them. And the church will grow or stagnate accordingly.
I think therein lies the answer to the initial question. Those people who are doing things that fall under our “gift lists”, are not doing them for the body to grow.


Blogger Aurelian said ... (1:09 PM) : 

Once you've read enough spiritual gifts literature you see certain stock answers to these questions repeated so many times that it's a relief to find someone saying that these answers we're so used to hearing just don't explain the evidence. This is my favorite topic, so I really like your question. I also think your commenters think outside the box more than most, especially Nicole and Larry, so I hope they're not offended by my mentioning them along side my very unorthodox views.

I began researching the relationship between the gifts and what we would call "secular" personality types about 12 years ago. Here's a brief summary of my perspective on the evidence, and if you're interested I'll expand on any of these points.

First, I think the scriptural passages on the gifts are more exact and precise than we generally realize, even the body analogy. Second, our "spiritual" gift is "always" related to our personality to the extent that they are really indistinguishable. That is, our gifts can be discerned before we are part of the Body of Christ. I expect objections to this one, but it really is more reasonable than it sounds on the surface. We are the victims of many presuppositions regarding the gifts that may not be correct.

I believe what distinguishes believers is not the gift, but the manifestation of the Spirit through our gift, which is something that unbelievers have no part of.

To clarify, I think that 4 of the gifts have no correlation with our personality and cannot be detected prior to salvation: Miracles, healing, tongues, and interpretation.

Finally, I think the very term "spiritual gifts" is not even a biblical term. It was a poor rendering of "pneumatikwn" (I Cor 12:1) by the KJV translators, and when we use "spiritual gifts" we're actually applying it to the term "charismata" assuming that the two are synonyms.

And of course I know I can't be right about everything, so feel free to disagree.


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