How do they fit together?
A common misconception about spiritual gifts is that the lists in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are exhaustive. However, they are specific set of skills described by Paul for the church his letter was addressed to. The main point he was communicating about was unity in the body of Christ.
Let's take a minute to define the traditional view of spiritual gifts and how they come about.
- A person who is not saved by faith in Jesus Christ does not have a spiritual gift.
- A person converts to Christianity by saving faith in Jesus Christ.
- They are implanted with the Holy Spirit on conversion.
- The person now has one or many spiritual gifts given to them by God.
A major reason why this came about was due to the gifts that showed a movement of the Holy Spirit. These could include speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healing (Romans 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:6). The focus has become on the manifestation of those gifts rather than their intended purpose: to build up the body of Christ for the common good (Romans 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:7). Certainly, there are some gifts that only come about through the Spirit. The "sign gifts", as they are called, require the Holy Spirit's direct manifestation.
A quick note about 1 Timothy 4:14, which describes the timing of an unspecified gift given to Timothy. This seems to be specifically given to Timothy. This seems to be the exception rather than the rule for other gifts specified in scripture. This gift may be something entirely different than the gifts mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
A simple test of whether a spiritual gift is working as God intended is if you can say yes to all the following questions.
- Does the manifestation of the gift align with scriptural truth?
- Does the manifestation of the gift edify, unify and encourage up the Body?
- Does the manifestation bring about positive, God-focused change or behavior?
- Does the manifestation bring others closer to God?
If you can answer no to any of these questions, there are likely some incorrect motivations or assumptions.
What I believe we need is a broader definition of what a spiritual gift is and how we discover what ours is.
The Case for Design
What I believe we need is a broader definition of what it means to be gifted by God. We need a framework to identify abilities in ourselves and others for the betterment of the Church. This would include the skills that are not specifically listed in the verses above but would be used for the same purpose: building and strengthening the unity of the body of Christ.
I've recently written about What is God Given Design?, so in short, God given design is our hardwiring and natural tendencies that God has embedded in our soul and personality (Ephesians 2:10). It is specific to the person and can take on many, many different forms. It is also more encompassing, in that, we all have been designed for good works, supporting the Body (1 Corinthians 12). If we believe that each member of the Body is necessary (1 Corinthians 12:21), we must believe that each member has a role to play. What role you play, will likely be tied to your design.
In addition, the good works created for us (Ephesians 2:10) could be just this: activities that each member does to support and strengthen the Body within their design. Doing these works in tune with the Holy Spirit will yield the most benefit to the Body. Why would this not be true of activities at your secular job, your neighborhood, or classroom? We maximize our impact for the kingdom when we do what we do best, in our design and in step with the Spirit's leading.
A House Built on the Rock
Let's pretend for a moment that you are to a house. Your design is the raw materials (wood, nails, concrete, etc) use to make different parts of the house. Your life experiences start shaping those raw materials into columns and beams. You can choose to use those raw materials incorrectly (e.g concrete door, glass walls, wooden windows) and you can still get a building, but it may not be terribly useful. If that house is built on a foundation of Biblical truth it will be able to withstand trials (Matthew 7:24-25).
At some point, the Holy Spirit moves in (conversion) and continues to put the finishing touches (correct thinking and actions through sanctification), making it a pleasing (fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-25) and livable home. The home becomes, over time, fully functioning (edifying the Church, or community) it resides in. A home inhabited and maintained by the Spirit becomes a source of strength, realizing its full potential to make the community around it better.
In essence, salvation in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables beneficial manifestations of design's skills for the betterment of the body. Like a home, the outside function (actions and speech) directly reflects the person within (thoughts and soul). A community made of strong homes (people) becomes a wonderful place (church) to live in.
Gifts Outside the Box
An example of gifts outside of those listed in the verses above is the passage regarding Oholiab and Bezalel to helped build the tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11).
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, [...list of furnishings...]. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”
We see a couple of interesting things in this passage.
- Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God
- He was also given ability, intelligence, knowledge and all craftsmanship
- The able men had a specific calling with which to use their skills
These men were given gifts outside of the traditional spiritual gifts passages listed above. So, the list cannot be exhaustive if we consider Bezalel and Oholiab to have "spiritual gifts" or gifts fully enabled by the Spirit.
Now, it's surely possible that God could supernaturally import "intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship" to whoever he pleases and any time. The equivalent analogy would be a sunroom that drops from the sky and is immediately accessible to your home. This is possible but probably not plausible. Excluding the sign gifts (miracles, tongues, interpretations, healing), gifts like this would take time, effort and living within our design to realize our full potential.
Fully Functioning Body
To be inclusive of all members of the Body, we need to cast a wider net for unique gifts that God has placed in our midst. Focusing on the individual's design and determining what good work God has for them provides the opportunity for every gift to come alive and every part to be fully utilized in service of the Body and God's kingdom.
If you’d like help knowing your design or learning how your design can work in tandem with spiritual gifts, consider the next Design Revealing course in Design Coaching.