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Questions About Spiritual Gifts: What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?

Photo by Eva Waardenburg on Unsplash

Understanding the purpose of spiritual gifts goes a long way in helping us think more clearly about their use.  Clearly, spiritual gifts are not given for self-promotion or self-profiting.

Spiritual gifts are given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7, 14:12, 26). Literally, spiritual gifts (charismata) are given for profitability (1 Corinthians 12:7). The context in 1 Corinthians 12 and the statements in 1 Corinthians 14:12 and 26 (add to this the parallel ideas in Ephesians 4:11-16), help us to see that profitability refers not to self, but to others. Thus, the ESV translated the idea of profitability as “the common good.”

Unfortunately, much of what we see on television and hear about on the internet concern self-promoting, self-profiting spectacles. Generally, such spectacles are associated with the Health & Wealth “gospel”; however, that is NO gospel. In fact, the peddlers of such wares are described by Peter as false prophets/teachers: waterless springs and mists driven by a storm (2 Peter 2:1-22). Many of these so-called preachers have been exposed as using their “gifts” for self-promotion and profit.

On the other hand, the Bible helps us to see that the gifts, ministries, and workings of the Spirit are given to us for the benefit of others – the body (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:12, 26). Obviously, we do derive benefit and blessing when we serve others, but the using of gifts shifts our focus away from ourselves and toward others (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

Since gifts are for the building up of the body, then the Spirit grants gifts as and when the body needs them. This means that while there are some gifts the body needs continually (teaching, administration, etc.), there may be other gifts that are granted temporarily, as needed (i.e., faith, healings, workings of power, etc.).

Since gifts are given for the benefit of the entire body, it is foolish to boast about our gifts and to promote ourselves for personal gain. How can you be proud about something that has been given to you by the Spirit for the profitability of others? It makes no sense, does it?

Let us, then, repent of laziness, trust in Christ, and embrace the Spirit’s work in order that we may serve one another in love. Such service glorifies God (1 Peter 4:10-11).

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is in me – 1 Corinthians 15:10.

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