What a Spiritual Gift Is [Spiritual Gifts]

Last week we shared a statistic in the Church. Although spiritual gifts are vital to the health of Christ’s Body on earth, a survey revealed that the majority of respondents (63%) didn’t have a biblical understanding and/or a practical application of spiritual gifts.

This is troubling because not only are spiritual gifts part of God’s strategy to build the Church, but they’re also central to experiencing joy as a Christian. According to Pastor Ray Stedman, “The value of your life as a Christian will be determined by the degree to which you use the gift God has given you.”

This week we look at what a spiritual gift is.

We could discuss a variety of definitions from Bible scholars and theologians from various streams within Christianity, but I prefer the definition of C. Peter Wagner:

“A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”

Let’s break down this definition into smaller components:

Special attribute

An attribute is a certain ability or characteristic that one possesses. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” In the human body analogy, not everyone is a thumb or an ear. Likewise in the Body of Christ, not everyone has the same attribute or ability.

Given by the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” It is the Holy Spirit who determines what to give to whom. We may desire and ask for a particular gift, but the Holy Spirit decides who gets what, when.

To every member of the Body of Christ

Spiritual gifts aren’t given to just the superstars of the Church, the most holy, or the most apparently deserving. Spiritual gifts are given to every member of the Body of Christ. Says Stedman, “It is significant that in each place where the gifts of the Spirit are described in Scripture, the emphasis is placed upon the fact that each Christian has at least one.”

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According to God’s grace

The term “spiritual gift” comes from the Greek word charisma, which means, “work of God’s grace.” The actual substance of a spiritual gift is the grace of God. From charisma comes the word, “charismatic.” Ironically, we often associate the charismatic stream of Christianity with the operation (and sometimes abuse) of spiritual gifts, but all Christians are supposed to operate in their spiritual gifts, not just “charismatics.”

For use

Spiritual gifts are given in order to be used. They’re not meant to stay wrapped in a pretty bow and packaging. The way to use them is to well, use them. If we could look at the Church with God’s eyes, we would see so many gifts lying dormant, untouched, and unused. What a waste of God’s precious grace!

Within the context of the Body

Spiritual gifts are given in order to build up the Body. The goal is the growth of the Church. Building the Body can take a variety of forms, for example: bringing in new members through evangelism, helping members through service, encouraging members through exhortation, or training members through teaching.

I like what Dr. Sam Storms writes, “Spiritual gifts are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us.”

Why wouldn’t we want that?

We’ve covered what a spiritual gift is. Next time we’ll cover what a spiritual gift is not.

Chris believes we're all looking for purpose and joy at work. He's the Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., where he helps employees to succeed. He's also a Certified Professional Life Coach and a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach. He loves to coach people, write, and speak around the topics of engagement, coaching, strengths, and growth. He blogs often at ChrisHeinz.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “What a Spiritual Gift Is [Spiritual Gifts]

  1. Good word, Chris, and I agree with what you said. I especially think the emphasis on the gifts being for the Body of Christ and the way that it’s a tangible representation of Christ’s grace in and through us to one another. I have a question, though, in your research and study, why do you think it is that so few believers seem to even know what their spiritual gift(s) are, much less use them in the Body to bring glory to God? I’m sure God feels the same way we do as parents when we see our children’s gifts/abilities but they either don’t see them, or they “waste” them on pursuits which don’t benefit them or anyone else. I don’t know about you, but, I would think that you and most believers reading your blog don’t want to disappoint God. So, I’m just wondering what theory(ies) you hold as to why so many spiritual gifts go unrecognized and unused in the Body. Thanks for your post on this very important topic!

    • Hi Dann, glad this post resonated with you. It’s a very good question – if gifts are so important, why don’t more people know them and operate in them? I plan to tackle that question in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.