In my last blog I talked about spiritual gifts and who can use them. In this blog I will continue the topic and will cover which spiritual gifts we can work in. The key question I will answer is this:
Can we work in any spiritual gift we desire or are we stuck with what God gives us?
If I have a gift of healing, can I also prophesy? If I am an evangelist and someone comes to me who needs deliverance, can I do it or do I have to send the person to someone with the deliverance gift?
The best place to look to answer these questions is 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. Paul is going into detail over the space of 3 chapters to answer an issue the believers in Corinth had about spiritual gifts. I encourage you to read the whole 3 chapters before continuing with this blog to aid your understanding.
There are two key verses in this section. The first one is 12:11 after Paul gives a list of spiritual gifts:
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
This shows clearly that it is God who distributes spiritual gifts as he will. So what is God’s will regarding giving good things like spiritual gifts?
Matthew 7:6-11 gives us the answer, which includes the following statements:
“Ask and you shall receive”
“Everyone that asks (keeps on asking) receives”
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
So what do we need to receive spiritual gifts from God? Just ask!
Now, I know some of you might disagree with me because if we can all work in any gift we like, we would all just prophesy and no-one would do the dishes!
This is exactly the issue that Paul is addressing in chapters 12-14. He is saying that we all need to perform different functions when we come together. That is why he uses the analogy of a body performing different tasks and why he says this in verse 14:26 near the end of his teaching which is the second key scripture:
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
The part from “whenever you come together…” onwards is frequently quoted by many involved in home church movements. The point is that we should all be given a chance to use whatever spiritual gift we have to benefit others. I completely agree with this because it is something the traditional church doesn’t do well.
This verse is prefaced by “How is it then, brethren?” What Paul is saying here is that up to this point, he has been telling them what not to do and teaching on the importance of using spiritual gifts properly. ‘How is it then brethren?’ is another way of saying ‘what should you do instead?’ Then he tells them that when they come together everyone should use their gift to edify the others.
This is why Paul could say in 14:1 to “desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” He repeats this in 14:39 where he says to “desire earnestly to prophesy.” If we have no control over which gifts we work in, why would Paul say this?
We don’t have to even be naturally passionate about a gift, we can simply choose to want to work in it!
Let me illustrate. I can play a guitar well. I haven’t played for years, but I can pick one up now and transition smoothly between all the main chords. I have trained myself over the course of many years to play it well. To others I may appear gifted. The truth is, I only appear gifted, because I have practiced a lot. I have the gift of playing the guitar. The same thing applies with spiritual gifts.
I am not particularly passionate about playing the guitar. I only decided to get good at it because in the church I was attending, that was one of the few areas where I could get involved.
Now, I don’t play guitar but I have learnt how to evangelise. I can now share the gospel with anyone on the streets at any time. Again, it is not something I naturally want to do but I do it because it is something that I believe is lacking in the church.
If we could only work in a limited number of gifts, why did God send only one Jesus into the world? Wouldn’t he have had to send multiple Jesus’ who could each work in their different gifting? You might say, ‘Jesus was different’, but remember “as Jesus is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
Ultimately I believe we can ask God for any gift we like and trust God to give it to us.
However it is most beneficial when there is the greatest diversity in gifts within a congregation. So, if you are a prophet but there is another prophet in your group but no evangelist, ask God to help you know how to evangelise. He is a generous giver!