The Bible very clearly teaches that one of the tasks the Holy Spirit undertakes is that of giving to believers various abilities called “gifts” that are given not for personal advantage of aggrandizement, but in order that Kingdom work may be done. In recent years, a lot of material has been written on this subject, so we will look at the essentials here.
A number of important yet basic points should be kept in mind:
- The various gifts spoken of in the Bible are given at the discretion and bidding of the Holy Spirit. They are not ours to conjure up or invent. These gifts were given in more significant abundance after Jesus resurrection had taken place. (Notice Ephesians 4:8,11). Question: Why do you think the gifts came in greater abundance after the resurrection and ascension?
- The gifts given by the Spirit seem to be quite varied, ranging all the way from the ability to work in a highly skilled manner with metals and fabrics (Eliphaz), the ability to interpret visions and dreams (Daniel), to being able to speak in other languages and preach in such a way that people are converted (Paul and others). Given this, it is highly improbable that the lists in the major passages listed above should be seen as exhaustive. The Holy Spirit gives out various gifts as needed. It is not inconceivable that the Spirit could custom-make a gift for a particular circumstance.
- The gifts are all given for purposes of service, not that those who have them might brag. These gifts are actually necessary, for God’s Kingdom is not of this world. Those who work to expand its borders must be able to access and work in a dimension that is beyond human. Humans cannot do the work necessary to bring about conversions and regenerations. We cannot teach kingdom truths on our own. We cannot exhort, either. Giving gifts to people is the Holy Spirit ’s way of doing Kingdom work.
- No one person has, or should they expect to have, all the gifts. Gifts are given out at the discretion of the Holy Spirit. Some people may have several, but every believer has at least one.
- It is often the case that the more spectacular gifts are not as common as the more quiet and ordinary ones. For example, the gift of helping is very common, but the gift of prophecy is not so. Why do you think this is so?
- One of the states gifts is the gift of miracles. What is a miracle? A suspension of natural law, a breaking of natural law, God operating by a set of higher laws we do not understand? Do you think miracles are common or uncommon? For what reason(s) did Jesus perform miracles? Why do you think miracles like that are uncommon today?
- The gift of prophecy is mentioned in all three of the major lists of gifts. Why do you think that is so? What is the major work of a prophet? Why do prophets almost always face ridicule and persecution?
- Gifts that are not used can atrophy and disappear.
- Have you ever tried to identify what gift or gifts you might have? Have you ever seen your gift at work?