A Description of Spiritual Gifts - Part II
Tim Temple


We talked about the distinctions in spiritual gifts in the first part of this chapter and some pointers about discerning gifts. In our last lesson, we began a description of spiritual gifts, and in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verses 8-10, there are a number of gifts listed. As we have talked about before, some of the gifts were foundational gifts. They were used in the beginning of the Church and, because of their very nature, are no longer necessary to the Church's function, not that God could not give them or that He would refuse to give them, but that because of the nature of things, it is not necessary that we have those gifts any longer.

Last week we talked about the gift of wisdom, which God gave to the men who were inspired to write the Scriptures; we talked about the gift of knowledge in verse 8, which was the gift of being able to teach from the teachings of others. The Apostle Paul had the gift of wisdom, the wisdom of God. While Paul would come and preach that before it got written down, there were other teachers who had the ability to understand Paul's teaching and spread that teaching to others. Those gifts are foundational; they are not being given any longer because now we have the Scripture in written form.

Then in verse 9, we talked about the gift of faith. As I mentioned in our last lesson, we might even think of this as faithfulness. It is a gift beyond saving faith. It is a gift that God gives to men who found organizations or men who lead organizations, and it is a gift that is obviously still being given today.

Then we talked about the gift of healing in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 9. We pointed out that although God does miraculously heal people in this day and time, He is no longer giving the gift of being able to heal at will. The instances where the gift of healing is described in the New Testament are where a person had the ability to walk up to a sick person and heal that person by saying something or touching him or something like that. Though God occasionally, and probably more often than we realize, heals miraculously, it is not being done in that way today–the gift of healing at will.

The fifth gift is the gift of miracles in verse 10, and the same comments apply. God still does miracles today, and again probably more often than we realize. Probably some miracles take place behind us in traffic two seconds after we have driven through. Many miracles we may not even be aware of, but the gift of miracles in the sense that Jesus and Elijah and Moses and some of those men did miracles, God does not seem to be giving today. So it was a foundational gift used to verify the message of the preachers in that first century before the Scripture was completed.

In verse 10 is mentioned the gift of prophecy. That is the gift of being able to foretell the future or to reveal some previously unknown truth. It is a foundational gift because we now have all things that pertain to life and godliness written down for us in the Bible. The gift of prophecy is no longer necessary. It is a foundational gift.

In verse 10 is the discerning of spirits, which was the ability to discern whether a prophet was a true prophet or not. It went along with the gift of prophecy. Again, it is not necessary because the Scripture has been completed; we have all the Scripture that we need, so we don't need the gift of discernment because all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

In verse 10 is also listed the gift of tongues. In our last lesson, we talked about the fact that the gift of tongues in every recorded instance in the Scripture–the Scripture has to be our standard–was the gift of being able to speak a language that one has not studied, the gift of being able to just automatically speak French or German or Spanish or Chinese, some language which is not your native tongue. The examples in the Scripture are of speaking in known languages, not gibberish, not a language of angels, which we will talk about in our next lesson. If God is giving that gift today, it is in extremely limited circumstances. I Corinthians, chapter 14, is going to describe for us what those circumstances are. When we come to that passage, you will see that if we would insist on a literal interpretation of I Corinthians, chapter 14, it would eliminate probably 95-99 percent of what is going on in the charismatic movement today, maybe 100 percent. There are extremely careful guidelines of under what circumstances God gives the gift of tongues, if He gives it at all in our generation. So it is either a foundational gift or extremely limited in its use. We talked in our last lesson about the fact that it is given as a sign to unbelieving Jews. So many, many times when people claim they are using the gift of tongues in worship today, there are no unbelieving Jews present, and that automatically disqualifies it as a valid gift. We will discuss that more when we come to chapter 14.

The gift of interpretation of tongues is listed there also, and obviously that is the gift of being able to interpret a language one has not studied. If your friend begins to speak in Chinese, God may give you the gift of being able to understand the Chinese and translate it. In fact, apparently He would sometimes give the gift of tongues to one person and the gift of interpretation to another, and a person might be speaking in Chinese and not even realize what language he is speaking. Again, we will discuss this more in chapter 14.

The second passage in which a list of spiritual gifts appears is I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 28, where we have listed the gift of apostleship, which was the gift of being able to lead the early Church. These men spoke with the authority of Jesus Christ. Acts, chapter 1, verse 22, and I Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 1, say that an apostle had to be a person who had seen the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who had seen Jesus in His glorified Body. Obviously, that is a foundational gift because there is no one alive today who has seen the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified Body. Someone asked me if that meant people who had seen visions of Jesus Christ. No, that seems to be very clear that it is talking about people who saw Jesus in the forty days when He was on the earth after His Resurrection.

Then in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 28, we have the gift of prophecy mentioned. Then we have the gift of teacher. That is the ability to be able to understand the Word of God and communicate it to others, not the gift of being smarter than other people nor the gift of more knowledge than other people, but the gift of being able to communicate the Word of God. It is a functional gift still being given today.

Then we talked about the gift of helps which is the capacity to assist and help other believers in various ways–physically, financially, spiritually. It is a behind-the-scenes kind of gift which is still being given today.

Then the gift of governments, which is the gift of being able to lead others, the gift that God usually gives to elders, for example. It is probably given to others, too. You wouldn't have to be an elder just because you had the gift of governments, but it is the ability to set goals and direct others in the achieving of those goals, probably the ability to draw others around you to achieve goals that God is directing you for. The New American Standard version translates it “administration”. I think that is a good description of that gift.

That brings us to a third passage containing a list of spiritual gifts, which is Romans, chapter 12, verses 6-8. These are the gifts that we have not yet discussed:

Romans 12

6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Here is a list of several more spiritual gifts. Let me point out the emphasis of Romans, chapter 12: Having gifts according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them. That is the focus of all the information that we have about spiritual gifts in the New Testament. So even though we are just going through this list and talking about what the gifts are, please keep in mind that the purpose of this is that we might better use the gifts, that we might know what our spiritual gift is, if we don't already, by seeing what the gifts are and seeing what you identify with, perhaps just trying them out once you know what they are. That is the way that we find out what our gift is. The focus of the Scripture is always on using those gifts that we have.

The Gift of Exhortation

The first one that is mentioned in Romans, chapter 12, verse 6, is the gift of exhortation. Keeping in mind that we have already discussed the gift of prophecy and the gift of ministry (helps) and the gift of teaching, the next on the list is the gift of exhortation. There are some people who think, “Now that's what I like to do! I'm good at chewing people out!” Well, if you are good at that, you probably have some other gift than exhortation because that is not what exhortation is all about. That is the way we use that term. When we talk about exhorting someone, we have the idea of straightening someone out, but actually the word “exhortation” is the translation of the Greek word paraklesis , which in its various forms is “one called alongside to help” or, in the verb form, “to call someone alongside to help”. The idea is someone coming alongside someone else to help them. So the gift of exhortation is the gift of having the ability to come alongside someone with strength that they don't have and to help them through that time. It is similar to the gift of helps, the gift of ministry; but this seems to imply sort of a verbal help, not publicly probably, but a quiet, personal counseling kind of help, perhaps literally putting an arm around someone, encouraging them, strengthening them. It does not mean chewing people out. However, sometimes the best help you can give a person is to verbally straighten them out–speak the truth in love, but firmly.

This gift might also include the ability to challenge other people to come alongside with them to help accomplish God's purpose, but it is that ability to help other people in times of need. There seems to be a stress on the verbal aspect of that. The gift of helps might involve the more physical activity–mowing the grass for someone who is laid up and can't do it or various physical things like that–whereas this gift of exhortation would have to do more with speaking and teaching on a one-to-one basis–helping other people, coming alongside to help.

The Gift of Giving

Then in verse 8 is listed the gift of giving. Every believer is told to give. In fact, as I have mentioned several times before, every believer is told to do all of these things. Just because you don't have the gift of giving does not mean that you don't have to give. Just because you don't have the gift of evangelism does not mean that you don't have to tell other people about Jesus. All of the things that are listed as Scriptural gifts are things that God has told all Christians to do, and giving is a good example. The Scripture clearly tells all of us that we should be involved in giving to the Lord's work, but God gives to some people a special ability; and as I have reflected on this gift of giving, I think the real gift in this instance is the ability to understand a need, the ability to discern a need and to be able to give to it, maybe even sacrificially. It seems to me, as I have thought about the lives of people who say that they have the gift of giving, as I have seen some of those people in the exercise of that gift, that the real essence of the gift of giving is the ability to really distinguish between a legitimate need and what is not, what is an immediate need and what is not, and the ability to think through what these needs are and determine the best way to work with those needs. It is an ability to give in a very special way to the Lord's work and to be involved in that financial aspect of the Lord's work.

Very often this gift includes the ability to make money. Someone might say, “I covet that gift. I would like to have that gift.” But it includes the ability to give that money away, too. I do know of at least one person who has the gift of giving–he believes that he does and I believe that he does–who has a very ordinary income. He has an income that is below many, so it is not limited to people who have a lot of money. Don't eliminate yourself as possibly having the gift of giving just because you don't have a high income. It is the ability to understand needs, what those needs are. It is a functional gift which is still being given today.

The Gift of Mercy

Romans, chapter 12, also mentions the gift of leading or ruling. That is the gift of administration that we talked about earlier. Verse 8 also mentions the gift of showing mercy, which we haven't talked about. This is the ability to give undeserved aid to others. Someone called it “Christian social work”. You know, it takes a special ability to see that some people can legitimately be in chronic need. There are people who come to the door of our church and want money, in most cases for food or help. They come back time after time after time. After ten years at this location and another ten years in another church, I have become convinced that there are people who make their living that way and who are not in legitimate need, who simply come and beg. It is interesting to me that they come to churches. Somehow they have the idea that churches are supposed to be giving money away. There are people who have the gift of being able to discern that. I don't have that gift. I'm afraid that I become cynical when they come back to the door more than a couple of times. But there are people who have the gift of showing mercy, the gift of being able to determine whether there is a legitimate need or not and to respond to it, sometimes even when it is not a legitimate need.

Most of us, I think, have the tendency to think, “Well, my goodness, why is he in trouble again?”, even if it is one of our friends, even if it is not someone coming for a handout. Someone gets in financial trouble or some other kind of trouble, and we have a tendency, after the second or third time that happens, to think, “Well, I have done all I can do. Let them help themselves.” Thank God, there are Christians who have the gift of mercy and who are willing and able to help. They are willing to go the extra mile. We tend to think of this as financial help, but I think it goes far beyond financial help.

I believe my mother had the gift of mercy. It would be interesting to know the number of hours that she spent during her adult lifetime listening to people say the same old things over and over and over again. That is showing mercy. There are people who need to talk it out. There are people who need a listening ear, and that is really all the help they need. There may be nothing you can do for them except listen to them. Thank God He gives some people the gift of mercy, to be able to give that kind of help that may not even be deserved but that is a real need. That is the gift of mercy.

The Work of the Ministry

That brings us to the fourth passage which lists spiritual gifts and that is Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 11. When we have looked at the gifts that are in this passage, we will have surveyed the four major passages in the New Testament which list spiritual gifts. There are other passages which refer to spiritual gifts or which say something about using our spiritual gifts, but these four basic passages tell us what the spiritual gifts are. Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 11, says:

Ephesians 4

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Again, verse 12 stresses what we say back in Romans, chapter 12, and that is that the purpose of the gifts is to be used; the purpose of the gifts is for ministry. Again let me stress that we not look at this survey of the gifts as just the gathering of some information. Remember that the stress in the Scriptures is always on the using of the gifts. Look at Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 12, at how this is supposed to work together. The spiritual gifts that are listed in these verses–really all the spiritual gifts–are to be used for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.

Let me mention again that particularly with pastors and teachers and evangelists, the gift of apostleship and prophecy are not being given any longer because they have passed their usefulness; but the gift of evangelist and the gift of pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. One of the great misconceptions in the Body of Christ, one of the great misconceptions about spiritual gifts, is that we pay the preacher to do the work of the ministry. Very often people up to this very day talk about having a great church staff. They just do such a wonderful ministry. Let me tell you something. If you are depending upon the church staff to do the work of the ministry, then either you or that church staff have misunderstood the Word of God because the purpose of the church staff is to equip you to do the work of the ministry. I have heard people say, “Our pastor doesn't really fill the bill because he doesn't get out and do the work of the ministry very much.” My question is, “Is that pastor teaching you to do the work of the ministry?” If that pastor is teaching you the Word of God so you can get out and do the work of the ministry, then that pastor is doing his job. It is to equip saints for the work of the ministry. That is defined in the last line of verse 12 as the edifying of the Body of Christ. It comes back to what we have seen in I Corinthians, chapter 12. We are to build each other up. We are to minister to each other. God gives unique abilities to help in that way.

Again, to liken it to the human body: The human body has a fantastic ability to heal itself. The body has a fantastic ability to keep itself going, but we all know that there are specialists who give special help here and there. Obviously there are some illnesses, some diseases, which require the attention of a physician and other medical personnel. God has provided men and women in those professions to help in that way. The Body of Christ is somewhat that way. God has designed that the hand be able to clean out the ear and wipe the eye. God has designed that the eye be able to see what the foot is about to stumble over in the human body. He has designed the spiritual body in the same way–that we all help each other, that we exercise our gifts toward each other to help each other. But then He has given some who are especially equipped such as the evangelist, the pastor-teacher, the teacher–those who can work in the specialized areas where the Body may need more than just that immediate interdisciplinary, interfunctional help.

The Gift of Evangelism

In Ephesians, chapter 4, he mentions apostles and prophets. We have discussed those already. The apostles were the tenth gift on the list, and the prophets were the sixth gift on the list. That leaves two gifts which we have not yet discussed. One is the gift of evangelism, in verse 11:

Ephesians 4

11…and some, evangelists;…

This is the ability to explain the Gospel clearly, and it seems to me that it always is accompanied by a very strong desire to do so. All of us are supposed to tell others about Jesus Christ. The Great Commission was given to all Christians, but God has given some the gift of evangelism. If you know of someone who has the gift of evangelism, you know that that person may be able to say pretty much the same things you say, but the hearers seem to respond better than when you give the Gospel. Also, more particularly, the person who has the gift of evangelism seems to be able to find opportunities to give out the Gospel, and people seem to respond to him more quickly or more thoroughly; or he has the ability to stay with it longer than you do, to think of other ways to get the Gospel across. He is gifted in that way, and he seems to have a strong desire to do so. I know several people who have the gift of evangelism.

When I was a teenager, I used to get embarrassed at one particular person who had the gift of evangelism. He would take a group of us teenaged boys to the Jones Country jail in Anson, and we would witness to the prisoners there. We had some interesting results. I count that as a very important part of my teenage years, spiritually and secularly. We had a good time on the way over there and on the way back. It wasn't all just ministry, but this particular person would embarrass us sometimes because he didn't limit his witnessing just to the jail. We would stop and get a coke on our way to the jail, and this guy wanted to witness to the waitresses; or we would stop and buy gas, and this guy would ask the gas station attendant if he knew the Lord. That is the way people with the gift of evangelism are. They do it whether it bothers anybody or not! The rest of us do it if we feel like we ought to. We get convicted and we think, “Well, I should ask this guy.”, and we work up all our courage. But the person with the gift of evangelism is looking for opportunities to witness. That ought to be a challenge to all of us. We all ought to be more that way.

If you find yourself among those who when you meet a new person or when you see yourself in a new situation, the question in your mind is, “Do these people know the Lord?”, then very possibly you have the gift of evangelism, and you should pursue that. You should learn how to evangelize. I think one of the reasons that we don't witness more, whether we have the gift of evangelism or not, is that many of us just really don't know how. We don't know exactly what to say; we don't know how to get the conversation steered in that direction. So all of us need more training in this area. But if you have the gift of evangelism and you haven't had any training yet, you really do need to learn how to do this. The gift of evangelism is a functional gift.

The Gift of Pastor-teacher

Finally, there is the gift of pastor-teacher. I want to point out that this is one gift. In most translations of the Bible which I have seen, it is linked with a hyphen. It is pastor-teacher. We have seen already that there is the gift of teacher. That is number eleven on the list. We talked about that–the ability to understand and explain the Word of God. Pastor-teacher is a combined gift. It is the gift of teacher with that ability to understand the Scriptures, but it is combined with the ability to shepherd. The word “pastor” in verse 11 is a translation of the Greek word poimen , which means “shepherd”. The normal word for “and” in the Greek is the word de , which we transliterate in English, but there is another connective word in the Greek that is sometimes translated with the word “and”, and it is the word kai . It is a completely different word. The basic function of that word is connective; it is like a hyphen. It is both gifts–pastor-teacher.

A teacher may not be a pastor, but a pastor must be a teacher. There are people who have the gift of teaching, but not the gift of pastor-teacher. They usually wind up teaching in seminaries and Bible colleges or teaching home Bible studies, and that is a legitimate and an important gift. But every pastor ought to be a teacher. He ought to be a pastor as well. As a pastor-teacher, he will still do the counseling and comforting, etc., that a pastor does, but he will tend to do it on the basis of God's Word. As pastor-teacher, he will, as he preaches, teach. As he pastors from the pulpit, the focus will be on teaching, and that is what God has designed as the building up of the Church–pastor-teacher. If a man has been gifted by God for the gift of pastor, it is a two-sided gift, and it will involve teaching.

Nine Functional Gifts

Let me quickly point out that we have nine functional gifts, nine gifts that are still being given today, out of this whole long list. We have the gift of faith, the gift of teaching, the gift of helps, the gift of administration, the gift of exhortation, the gift of giving, the gift of mercy, the gift of evangelism, and the gift of pastor-teacher. Those gifts are all being given today. Do you know what your spiritual gift is? The stress is not just on knowing about all the gifts, it is on pursuing your gift. We have somehow come to the place that we think that there are only two or three ways to serve the Lord. Usually that includes being a pastor or a missionary or a choir director or a seminary teacher. That is baloney! The Scripture lists at least nine ways to serve the Lord and only two of those are public ministries. Only two of those are professional kinds of ministries. Find out what your gift is. If you already know what your gift is, pursue that gift with excellence, with diligence, with the help of the Lord, for His honor and glory.

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