“The Gifts of the Holy Spirit”
Note: The information in this message was inspired by chapter 3 of the book “The New Guidebook for Pastors” by James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson. Any direct quote that may appear is respectfully used with credit to the authors, and is intended for educational purposes only.
“Dear God, please open my heart and open my mind so that I may understand the message today, and from it, learn my place within the church and how I am to interact with other church members to strengthen and unify our congregation so that we can give thanks to the Lord and ask your blessing on us that we may continue to learn more about you and share your message with others. I thank you for the special spiritual gift you gave me when you created me, and I ask for the wisdom to use my spiritual gift wisely to honor and praise you name. I ask this in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
There are three primary passages on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. Your spiritual gift is part of your spiritual preparation.
For purposes of discussion, let's begin with 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul divides the gifts of the Holy Spirit into three categories.
1 Corinthians 12 (NKJV)
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
The three categories of gifts Paul labels as "ministries" (v. 5), "activities" (v. 6), and "manifestations" (v. 7). For better comprehension, can call these gifts motivational gifts, ministry gifts, and manifestation gifts.
Beginning with verse 14, Paul goes on to explain the function of these gifts by making a clever analogy to the human body:
1 Corinthians 12:14-31 (NKJV)
For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
Ephesians 4 personifies the gifts in gifted men that seem to be given by the risen Christ to the church at His ascension: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers:
Ephesians 4:7-13 (NKJV)
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
One of the best explanations of how to use our spiritual gifts is found in Romans 12. In Romans 12, motivational gifts are called "grace gifts," or “charismata. (Charismata: “The spiritual graces and qualifications granted to every Christian to perform his task in the Church” – this grace is given for the development of the church). They are spiritual abilities that should direct and motivate every Christian's service. Romans 12:6-8 itemizes seven different motivational gifts: prophecy (proclaiming the truth), service (meeting people's physical needs), teaching (clarifying the truth), exhorting (encouraging), giving (meeting people's financial needs), leading (meeting people's organizational needs), and mercy (meeting people's emotional needs). The implication is that every Christian has at least one of these seven basic motivational gifts.
The probable implication is that each Christian has only one of the seven motivational gifts on which to concentrate. Just as persons receive natural abilities when they are born physically, so also they receive spiritual abilities when they are born again spiritually. The discovery of one's basic motivational gift is very liberating and enhancing.
Romans 12:4-8 (NKJV)
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Some people suggest that the list of gifts in Romans 12 represents the seven basic motivational gifts of which every Christian has at least one, and probably only one, since concentration implies singleness of mind. You are commanded in the rest of the New Testament to practice all seven gifts, but only one of them will really motivate you. Once you discover your motivational gift, you will become focused in your work.
The gift of prophecy is not limited to prediction of the future, but it is primarily proclaiming the truth.
If you have the gift of service, you will emphasize meeting people's physical needs.
People who have the gift of exhorting often spend time in counseling people. Exhorters readily apply truth to life. But this application must come from the Word of God and not from counseling books.
Those who have the gift of giving often become financially blessed because of God's clear principle in Luke 6:38 (which we’ll look at in a moment). If God blesses you financially, you should be careful not to reflect that blessing in extravagance.
The spiritual gift of ruling or leading is a special gift that must be exercised with care.
Note this interesting thing about the construction of Romans 12: Following the listing of the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, the next seven verses have a word of admonition about each of the seven gifts.
Romans 12:9-16 (NKJV)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Verse 14 is an admonition for those pastors who have the gift of leading or organizing: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."
Those who have the gift of mercy had better have a lot of tears to shed because a lot of sad and moving things happen in a church. If mercy is meeting people's emotional needs, you need to laugh as well as cry. You must discipline yourself not to turn aside from the study of the Word and prayer to meet people's emotional needs immediately.
Each motivational gift has its strengths and its vulnerabilities. That is why we need one another in the church. Only one person has all seven gifts—and that is Jesus. It is in the collective distribution of the gifts to various Christians that the likeness of Christ is realized in a church. You need to discover, accept, cultivate, develop, and use the spiritual gifts that God has given them.
In the commentaries on the seven motivational gifts that are outlined in Romans 12:9-16, the characteristics and vulnerabilities of each gift are listed. Verse 9 relates to verse 6 and comments on the gift of prophecy. Verse 9 says, "Let love be without hypocrisy". Note the admonition that follows: "Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good." This reveals both a characteristic and a vulnerability of the gift of prophecy, or proclaiming the truth.
Verse 10 relates to the first part of verse 7, and it comments on the gift of service. Service rendered without love is empty. Service rendered without love is vulnerable to the "appreciation trap." Those with the gift of service want to be told they are appreciated all the time. This just doesn't happen. It comes down to the question of who you are serving. Are you serving the Lord or are you serving people? Jesus reminds us in Luke 17:9 (“Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.”) that servants should not expect to be complimented when they are doing what they have been commanded to do. The One who needs to know does know. He is the One who will say some day, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Verse 11 relates to the last part of verse 7, and it comments on the gift of teaching. The teacher is to be diligent; he is to work hard at learning so he can teach. The teacher must also have a passion for what he teaches.
Verse 12 relates to verse 8, and it gives an admonition to the exhorter. This is the "cheerleading" gift. The exhorter frequently gives a list of things to do that will help people solve their problems. The exhorter must not give up on people. You must keep hoping they will get it. You must be patient and prayerful. After all, only God can change people.
Verse 13 relates also to verse 8, and it gives an admonition to those who have the gift of giving. They often become wealthy because God will bless abundantly when he finds a person who will be a channel of blessing to others. This gift is not reserved for wealthy people. Anyone can be hospitable. Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”) declares that we give to get to give. It is important how you say that. You must start and stop on give, never on get.
Verse 14 also relates to verse 8, and it admonishes those who have the gift of leading. In the King James Version, the word is translated as "ruling." It is better translated as "leading." This is the gift of organizational ability. But this verse is not talking about natural born leaders. It is talking about spiritually born leaders.
Note the admonition in Romans 12:14: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Even Moses discovered that rebellious people can't be led into God's best. How tragic that Moses lost his temper late in life and struck the rock rather than speaking to it as God had commanded.
Verse 8 emphasizes that those with the gift of mercy need to work at being cheerful rather than sad. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:7 NKJV).
A pastor who had the gift of prophecy preached strong messages on marital fidelity and purity of life. Yet he wept with his people and did not turn his back on them. He taught them to confess their failures before the congregation and to seek restitution. Years passed, and his own son impregnated his fiancée before they were married. With tears the couple asked the church for forgiveness. The pastor offered to resign. His people said, "Pastor, you have always preached the truth, but you have always been merciful to us when we sinned. We do not want you to resign." Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Bill Gothard, who has a wonderful youth and family ministry, once told a story that illustrates the function of these gifts in an imaginary situation: Imagine that a woman is coming out of the food line with a tray of food during a Wednesday night church supper. There is a microphone cord stretched across the floor. It has been taped down, but part of the tape has come loose and the poor woman catches the toe of her shoe on it and stumbles. She almost falls, dropping her tray in the process. Seven people with the seven different spiritual gifts spring into action,
The person with the gift of prophecy says, "The person who taped down the microphone cord should have been more careful, and you should have been more careful too." The person with the gift of service says, "Let me clean it up." The person with the gift of teaching says, "The tape should have been put down more securely. If you had lifted your foot up just an inch higher this would not have happened." The person with the gift of exhorting says, "Get up. Come on. Let's try it again. I know you can do it right this time." The person with the gift of giving says, "Let me buy you another meal." The one with the gift of mercy says, "You poor thing. Are you hurt?" The person with the gift of leading says, "George, get a broom. Mack, get a mop. Steve, get her another meal, Mary, help her over to the table." It takes all seven of these gifts to make a church in the likeness of Christ.
“Dear Lord, thank you for this message. Please help me to discover my spiritual gift and to use it to glorify Your name and to be able to work more successfully with the other members of your church so that we can collectively use our spiritual gifts to reinforce one another, and in return, be more successful in everything we do to share your Word and bring praise to Your name. We ask your blessing in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.”