Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Facets of Spiritual Gifts

In the midst of the singularly most descriptive passage on the subject in the NT, Paul said spiritual gifts have three facets through which we can observe them: (1) we can look at them according to the expressions of God's grace they are; or (2) we can look at them according to what they accomplish in the body; or (3) we can look at them according to the kind of motivational inspiration is necessary to produce them. They are the same gifts regardless of what approach is taken, inspired by the one and same God, but by looking at them through different spectacles we can learn more about them and the blessing they are to believers and the body.

There are three lists of gifts in the NT. None of them is a complete listing of all the gifts by itself; taken together, however, I believe they express fairly fully the spectrum of gifts in the body of Christ. We have already dealt with the list in Ephesians 4:11; somewhat dealt with the list in 1 Corinthians 12:28; and will deal with the list in Romans 12:6-8. If you're wondering where the list from 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 is, it is not included because it is not a list of spiritual gifts but of manifestations (miraculous signs) of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, I believe each of the lists approaches the subject from one of the "facet" perspectives. For instance, the list in Ephesians 4 is prefaced by a discussion on the grace given as Christ apportions it, which results in some being given as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Thus, we have the gifts presented from the standpoint of the grace of God they express in the Ephesian passage.

Leading up to the list in 1 Corinthians 12 is a lengthy development of the body illustration. The basic force of the argument is that we are functionally different in the church as are the parts of a body, yet are one cohesive entity. Functional body parts are thereby likened to the functional utilities of gifts. Therefore, v. 28's list is the view through the lens of service rendered.

In the Romans passage the we are told we should allow the gift to produce the effect of the gift (e.g. if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully). That is as about as good a way as possible to express the motivational aspect of gifting. Each gift has its own compulsion within it which produces its effects. Paul understood this facet in his own life, we should in ours.