Spiritual Gifts -- Part Three


Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
Theme: Our role in the body of Christ.
This week’s lessons challenge us to know our spiritual gifts and to use them in the Church.
Is there a particular number of spiritual gifts? That question is difficult to answer. Paul gives two lists here in chapter 12. The first one identifies nine gifts (vv. 7-11). Then in 1 Cor. 12:27-30, Paul identifies another set of nine gifts, but here the list is different. Some of the gifts from his first list are repeated in the second, but others are new. There are three other passages in the New Testament that also list gifts in a formal manner. There are five gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8 lists seven; and I Peter 4:11 mentions two. Not one of the lists is identical to the others. This is just a way of saying there are a great variety of gifts.
If you are concerned about determining what your gift is, the place to start is with these lists. Ask yourself, "Which of these gifts might I have?" If you do not find your gift there, it is all right. Again, I do not think God is limited to just these. You just pray and ask God to show you what your gift is. Then, as he reveals it, recognize that your gift is needed in the church, so be diligent in sharing it with others.
In the next section, beginning with verse 12, Paul uses the human body and its many parts as an illustration of the concept of unity in diversity. He develops this at length. Here Paul introduces an idea that was not quite so obvious in the first part of the chapter. Back there he talked about a great number of gifts and yet it is one Spirit who gives them. As we think about that, we recognize that the Holy Spirit is the giver of the gifts.
When you read Paul’s remarks about the body having many parts, it is helpful to remember that in Pauline theology, "the body" is not simply another term for the Church. Rather, Paul considers the body to be that of Jesus Christ. In this imagery, the head of the body is Christ and the Church makes up the rest of the body. By using this image he gets away from what some may have seen in the first part of the chapter as a bifurcation, that is, God up there and us down here working with our gifts. Here Paul links it all together. It is a marvelous way of saying what he has been saying all along: the diversity of spiritual gifts works together in a magnificent unity that is the Church of Jesus Christ.
If you are worried about what you ought to be doing in the church, if you are uncertain about whether you have any role, or if how you exercise your role is worth anything or makes a difference, just remember to whom you belong. You do not belong to a mere organization. You do not belong merely to a Bible study, or a local church, or a denomination. You belong to the body of Christ. You are part of the body of Christ; therefore, how you function, in a certain sense, affects Christ himself, as he operates on earth through his people.
Study Questions
  • Who distributes spiritual gifts?
  • How do we go about discovering our own unique gift or gifts?
Further Study
Carefully read through the lists of spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-30; Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8; and 1 Peter 4:11. How many different gifts are mentioned? 
Do you know your spiritual gift or gifts? If so, how are you exercising them?