What are Spiritual Gifts and do we have them or give them? I used to find this difficult to answer… but not any more.
As a very new Christian, back in the 70’s, I was introduced to something called the Houts Questionnaire designed to help believers discover their dominant spiritual gifts. C. Peter Wagner later modified this approach and I see that his book ‘Discover your Spiritual Gifts’ is still available.
The common Charismatic understanding of Gifts
The basic idea in these approaches is that God bestows permanent spiritual gifts upon His followers, but that we don’t always recognise which of gifts we have. The available number of these gifts range from the 7 listed in Romans 12:6-8, to a composite list of 28 drawn from Romans, Ephesians and 1 Corinthians. Common words in the descriptions of the various current questionnaires are discover, find, release, and activate. So the main point presented is that God gives them to each of us but that we need to discover what they are.
My problems with this approach
I have long had a few problems with this whole concept. Firstly, I don’t think it stems from a correct understanding of the key biblical passages. Secondly, it places the focus on us and not the Holy Spirit and tends towards pride and status distinctions. Thirdly, it confuses Holy Spirit empowered ministries with manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
I have written my own book on the subject to join the hundreds already out there and I will tell you more about that later.
The difference between Ministries and Manifestations
In this article, I want to focus on just one of the problems I have identified, the distinction between ministries and manifestations.
- A ministry is an area of service in and through the local church.
- A manifestation is what the Holy Spirit does in and through us as we minister.
Ministries are what we do to build up the church and to extend the Kingdom of God; manifestations are what the Holy Spirit does to make this ministry supernaturally effective.
Who receives the gift?
In a sense, we discover our areas of ministry, but the Holy Spirit manifests His gifts through us when they are needed. He distributes the gifts through us as we minister, but the ones who benefit from them are the ones who receive the gift. For example, if I respond in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and speak prophetically to the church or to an individual, then they have received the gift of prophecy. This might happen while I am preaching or performing some other ministry in the church. I would not be entitled to think of myself as a Prophet simply because I have prophesied from time to time. Conversely, as one who ministers as a preacher, I would be foolish not to ask and expect the Holy Spirit to manifest words of prophecy through me as I preach, because this is what imparts spiritual life to the preached message.
A new book about to be published
I develop these ideas more fully in the soon to be published ‘The 9 Spiritual Gifts & How to Find your Ministry’. The book is part of the Christian QuickReads collection specifically designed for those who prefer reading something around the 100-page length, rather than a longer and more comprehensive volume.
In my next post I want to address the matter of how we can determine from scripture what the 9 spiritual manifestations listed in 1 Corinthians 12 actually are. I also want to touch on apparent ‘gifts’ that may not be from God.