In the last issue we considered the temporary sign or foundational gifts. Let us now consider the speaking gifts beginning with prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11). In the early church some received direct revelation through the Spirit and conveyed it to other believers (Acts 11:27-28; 21:11). On some of these occasions it was church truth which God intended to be part of His completed written Word (i.e. 1 Cor. 11:23; 1 Thess. 4:15). Also known as the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42) it is foundational and concerns Christ in His Person, Work, and instruction for His Church (Eph. 2:20). Others in the early church had another form of this gift where the prophet was the one repeating and proclaiming truth already received. Only this latter form of the prophetic gift exists today because the foundation has been laid, God’s written Word having been completed (1 Cor. 3:11). The prophet today authoritatively proclaims God’s Word to edify, exhort, and comfort the saints (1 Cor. 14:3).
Second, either in private or public settings some today have a teaching gift with the ability to clearly teach the meaning of Biblical passages in understandable ways that reach believers’ hearts (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Yet anointed teaching and preaching requires more than gift. One must also be in unbroken fellowship with Christ, without any knowledge of unconfessed sin. As well one must study, learn, and communicate God’s Word in dependence upon Christ, recognizing their own weakness while at the same time experiencing God’s power through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:3-5).
Third is the gift of exhortation which can also be utilized in both public and private venues (Rom. 12:8). The one with this gift stirs up believers to greater devotion, holiness, and service. They have the Spirit-led words to help believers continue on the Christian path, exhorting them to obedience. Barnabas whose name means “son of exhortation” is a good example. He encouraged the apostles with his resources (Acts 4:36-37). He encouraged Saul, while still a new convert, and helped him gain acceptance with the Jerusalem disciples (Acts 9:26-27). Later, he inspired him to use his gift by bringing him to Antioch, so that they could teach the church gathered there (Acts 11:25-26).
Fourth, is the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10). A person with this gift can detect truth from subtle error (Acts 8:20-23). Paul warned Timothy that the last days would be characterized by a form of godliness with no evidence of spiritual power. One with discernment sees through false teachers who deny the truth by their greed, pride, and lust for power (2 Tim 3:5). This gift is given to help protect believers from “angels of lights” (2 Cor. 11:14).
Fifth, is the gift of evangelism (Eph. 4:11). The evangelist has a love and passion for the lost. Though they will preach the gospel in local churches, their primary calling is to go out into the world and proclaim Christ. They exhort the lost to turn to Christ from their sins, powerfully answering their doubts and objections from God’s Word. We are all called to be witnesses but not all have the gift of evangelism.
Sixth, is the gift of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8). Initially in the apostolic age, some received new truth from Christ. Today this gift exhibits itself in those living in close fellowship with Christ who are able to present the unchanging truth of God’s Word in their own unique way (Ps. 25:14; Jn. 14:21-23). They love to share special insights they have gleaned from Christ through His Word. Having delighted their own hearts, they now want them to benefit others as well.
Last, is the gift of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8). The one with this gift can tactfully solve problems, give others wise, practical guidance to navigate thorny and controversial issues, and can help mediate and resolve conflicts. Their wisdom is evident to all as they practically apply biblical truth to any given situation (Acts 6:10).
The final category is the serving gifts. Consider first the gift of ministry or helps (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28). These have the desire, love, and will to serve others, usually in a behind the scenes way. They will notice things that need to be done in the assembly and just do them without being asked. They will notice someone who needs assistance and will genuinely extend a helping hand. Epaphroditus is a good example (Phil. 2:25).
Second, those with the gift of mercy have a spiritual impetus to help the suffering, lonely, and sorrowful (Rom. 12:8). They notice the hurting, and have the desire, means, and will to act. It is evidenced for example, in visiting prisons and hospitals, comforting the bereaved, and helping the poor.
Third, is the gift of giving (Rom. 12:8). These sacrificially give of their time and resources. They do so without hidden motives of pride, desire for recognition, or gaining some advantage. We are all to give our firstfruits to the Lord but these have a divine ability and desire to generously meet needs once they are aware of them. Many believers in Macedonia exhibited this gift (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
Fourth, is the gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:9). This is the ability to trust God to remove mountains of problems, obstacles, and seemingly impossible situations to accomplish His will (Mt. 17:20; 1 Cor. 13:2). In the 19th century George Mueller epitomized this, trusting God to provide for the orphanages he managed. While all believers are to live by faith, there are some who have the divine enabling to do so in an exceptional way.
Fifth, is the gift of shepherding or leading (Rom. 12:8; Eph 4:11). Elders in an assembly normally have this gift which enables them to lead by example from among the sheep. They know, guide, and protect the flock, ensuring they are spiritually fed. The New Testament ideal is for a plurality of elders in a local church which allows for strengths and weaknesses of each man to complement one another (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet 5:1-2). Though shepherding is a spiritual gift, to serve as an elder one must be qualified and have a spiritual desire to serve in this capacity (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
Finally, is the gift of administration (1 Cor. 12:28). One with this gift is a visionary and leader, able to prioritize tasks, to discern strengths and weaknesses in others, and to delegate responsibilities to them. They are able to motivate others to take part in their vision. It is helpful if some of the elders and deacons in an assembly have this gift.
Identifying our Spiritual Gift(s)
Whatever our gifts we must remember to humbly serve for the glory of Christ (1 Pet 4:11) motivated also by a love for one another (1 Pet 4:10; Eph 4:15-16). We must serve in dependence upon Christ (Eph 6:10; 1 Pet 4:11) with the goal of building up His body (1 Cor. 12:7).
Why are so many believers not using their gifts today? First, some are unaware that there are spiritual gifts that empowers them to serve Christ (1 Cor. 12:1). Others may understand the truth but have not yet discovered what gift(s) God has given them. Still others may know their gifts, but not know how or do not have the opportunity to develop them in their current situation. Lastly, some are trying to exercise a gift they do not possess while ignoring one they do.
How may one identify their spiritual gifts and set them ablaze? First, study the relevant passages, gaining a better understanding of them and how they relate to us. Second, ask the Lord to reveal our spiritual gifts, believing He will answer our prayer. Third, serve at every available opportunity. We will soon realize what comes easy and is enjoyable. Though seemingly contradictory, utilizing our gifts can be both hard work and effortless when yoked dependently to Christ (Mt. 11:29-30). Fourth, seek advice from our elders and other godly believers. Finally, fire up the embers, and keep it aflame by developing our gifts (2 Tim. 1:6).
Christ has gifted us the enabling spark. Do we have the zeal and commitment to fan it into flame? Will we now devote ourselves to Christ and His magnificent work?