1 Corinthians 7:7
“… each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”
We are born into this world as unique individuals. We have a unique personality, with specific tendencies. We have exclusive physical features and capabilities. And we each possess gifts and talents. Some of these gifts are intended to serve the world, and some are intended to serve God, which are referred to as spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are special abilities that God gives to his children through the Holy Spirit. They are meant to help us serve God and others. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit and have the same purpose.
The Bible refers to around 20 gifts, but as God’s children we are not limited to the sampling mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1, which include: Administration, Discernment, Healing, Interpretation of languages, languages, prophecy, wisdom, Apostle, Faith, helps, knowledge, miracles, and teaching. Other gifts are mentioned in Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4.
There are many gifts available, and some people can have more than one. Some gifts overlap with others. Some theologians don’t believe all these gifts are available today, others disagree. There is no consensus between denominations over the meaning of these gifts, how they present themselves, and their importance. So, this can be a controversial area of study.
However, there is one thing that is more important than any spiritual gift, and that is love. Love is the ultimate goal and motivation of all spiritual gifts. Without love, our spiritual gifts are meaningless, useless, and harmful. With love, our spiritual gifts are powerful, beneficial, and edifying. Love is the source, purpose, and measure of all spiritual gifts.
Love is the source and foundation of all spiritual gifts. This means that God gives us spiritual gifts because He loves us and wants us to love Him and others. It also means that we can only use our spiritual gifts effectively if we have love in our hearts.
Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, where he says that without love, we are nothing, even if we have the most impressive spiritual gifts. He says that speaking in tongues, prophesying, having knowledge, having faith, giving away everything, or even dying for a cause are worthless if we do not have love. Love is the essential ingredient that makes our spiritual gifts meaningful and valuable.
Without love, our spiritual gifts are just empty noise, hollow boasting, and vain sacrifice. Therefore, it is love that brings life to our spiritual gifts. As Paul says in Romans 12:6-8, we need to use our spiritual gifts “in accordance with the grace given to us” and “in proportion to our faith”. This means that we need to recognize that our spiritual gifts are not our own achievements or possessions, but God’s gracious gifts to us.
I have been told in my lifetime that I had a gift of music. But that is not quite accurate. There is a difference between a talent and a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is God-given capability for works of service and to benefit the church. A talent is the inherited and self-developed ability to do something well. While a talent is inherited, a spiritual gift is received. My talent as a musician is used to support my gift of service within the church.
We also need to trust that God will enable us to use our spiritual gifts for his glory and not for our own. We need to have a humble and grateful attitude toward our spiritual gifts and use them with love for God and others.
How we use our gifts is directed by God; how we use our talents is self-directed. It is therefore incorrect to think that everyone’s talents should be used for the benefit of God. I remember when Amy Grant started to sing commercially, she was judged and criticized. People said she should only sing for God, that she was abusing her gift. That is false thinking. She was using her talent to make a living and still used her talent to support her gift of service withing the church for God. We can do both.
Love is the purpose and direction of all spiritual gifts. This means that God gives us spiritual gifts for a specific reason and goal, and that is to love Him and others. It also means that we need to use our spiritual gifts in a way that aligns with God’s will and plan.
In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul explains that “…to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”. This means that our spiritual gifts are not for our own benefit or pleasure, but for the benefit and edification of others. We are to use our spiritual gifts to serve, bless, and build up the church and the world. We are to use our spiritual gifts to show God’s love and grace to others.
Paul also elaborates on this in Ephesians 4:11-16, where he says that God gave some people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. This means that our spiritual gifts are not for creating division or competition, but for creating unity and maturity, to help each other grow in faith and knowledge of Christ.
We are expected to use our spiritual gifts to help each other become more like Christ. Therefore, love as the purpose of our spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 14:1, tells us to “follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts”. We are instructed to seek and use our spiritual gifts with a loving motive and a loving outcome.
Love is the measure and test of all spiritual gifts. This means that God evaluates and approves our spiritual gifts based on how much we love Him and others. God also expects us to monitor and improve our spiritual gifts according to the standard of love. Paul illustrates this in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, where he describes what love is and what love is not. He says that “love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails.” He also states that “love is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, and does not delight in evil.”
These qualities of love are the criteria that we need to apply to our spiritual gifts. We need to ask ourselves: Are we using our spiritual gifts with patience and kindness? Are we using our spiritual gifts to keep records of wrongs and delight in evil?
Paul also compares this in Galatians 5:22-23, where he contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the acts of the flesh. He says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He also says that the acts of the flesh are sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. These outcomes of the Spirit and the flesh are the results that we need to look for in our spiritual gifts.
We need to ask ourselves: Are we using our spiritual gifts to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Or are we using our spiritual gifts to produce sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy drunkenness orgies and the like?
The bottom line is that love must be the measure of our spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us “And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We need to value and prioritize love above all other spiritual gifts, and open our hearts to Christ’s commandment to love each other.
In conclusion, love is the foundation, motivation, and ultimate goal of all spiritual gifts. God gives us spiritual gifts out of His love and we can only use them effectively if we have love in our hearts. God gives us spiritual gifts for the common good and we need to use them in a way that aligns with His will and plan. God wants us to pursue love and eagerly desire His spiritual gifts.
Let us remember that love is more important than any spiritual gift because love never fails. Love is not just a feeling or a word, but an action and a lifestyle. It is my prayer that we demonstrate our love by using our spiritual gifts to serve, bless, and build up others. I pray that each of us will reflect God’s love by using our spiritual gifts with patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, truth, and endurance. By doing this, we glorify God, grow in the family of God, and enjoy His presence in our lives forever.
Spiritual Gift Assessment - Answer questions to help determine your spiritual gifts. https://www.dropbox.com/s/yg7vjbwkh9y3opy/Spiritual%20Gifts%20Assessment%20and%20Scoring.pdf?dl=0