Spiritual Gifts: They’re Not Just For Church
Are Spiritual Gifts meant be used in the office, on the factory floor, on the basketball court, or in an artist’s studio? Yes. You are gifted by God to do the high calling of your daily work.
The issue of Spiritual Gifts is one that can easily divide churches and cause conflict among Christians, and therefore it must be handled very carefully. I want to honor the various ways different believers understand the Gifts. That being said, I believe that the gifts are not meant to be used just in the church. They are what God gives us for the benefit of all, for the common good. My understanding of the Spiritual Gifts are in light of understanding Creation and New Creation and based in seeing all of life as a cohesive whole where there is no sacred/secular dualism in human existence.
In the beginning, God made humans in His image. Throughout history, we see humans gifted to do wonderful things that imaged God’s creativity, love, and dominion over the creation.
For instance, Bezalel, Oholiab, and other men were “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts” (Exodus 31:1-11). God’s gifts of poetry and song were given to various people, as well as the gifts to interpret dreams and to prophesy. The gifts that God gives to humans (so that they can do the work of being “Eikons”) are freely given at various times and in varying degrees.
This is the normal state of affairs in God’s good creation. We’ve grown accustomed to calling human “skills, abilities, and knowledge” (like crafts, poetry, medicine, etc.) as “natural,” while we call certain more flashy gifts as “supernatural.” But we need to resist this kind of dichotomy.
In the original Creation, God empowered humans to do that which should come “natural” to them. God provides his people with the abilities that they need to fulfill their call and purpose - to be Image-Bearers. These gifts do not transcend humanity’s natural existence, so to call these gifts “supernatural” is a misnomer. Certainly they come from the Supernatural One, but they are natural to our being human.
In other words, Spiritual Gifts should be seen as belonging to the natural order of God’s good creation. In the words of Albert Wolters in his must-read book, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview,
“[the more ‘miraculous’ gifts] are gifts of the Spirit as genuinely as love, joy, and peace are, but they do not add anything to what God had intended for his earthly creation from the beginning. They are therefore ‘natural.’ They are like faith; only someone regenerated by the Spirit can have faith (true faith, that is, faith in Jesus Christ) but this regeneration does not make faith foreign to the Creator’s original purpose. And just as faith as a general human function is not unknown outside the body of Christ (though it is always misdirected there), so the charismatic gifts are not unknown outside the body of Christ (though they are misguided and abused there).”
So, in the New Creation, we find that the “free gifts” (Greek charismata) from God are meant to be used for the “common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7) as well as to edify the church and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. Wolters continues,
“All human talents and abilities can flourish and blossom under the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit to the glory and service of God. When opened up by the Spirit they are all charismatic gifts. This applies to social tact, to a way with children, to a knack for communicating, to mechanical skill, or whatever. There may be degrees of importance or splendor in the gifts, but all alike qualify as ‘charismatic’ and ‘spiritual’ if they are directed to Christ’s redemption, sanctification, and reconciliation.”
Not everyone has been given all of the Holy Spirit’s gifts. Not everybody has the ability to be a math whiz (I jokingly tell people, “I went into ministry because I understood there would be no math”); not everybody is a poet; not everybody is mechanical. Neither is everybody given the gift of tongues or healings or prophesy.
The point is this: All of these gifts need to be seen as a part of God’s intention for the Original Creation, and all the more in the New Creation that came in Jesus Christ. You are gifted for specific callings that God has placed upon your life. You are not going to be good at everything, but you can, and should, seek to glorify God in that which you are gifted.
Post by Bob Robinson, Faith Editor for The High Calling and the Executive Director of The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life, and Vocations. Follow Reintegrate's tweets at @re_integrate and Bob's personal twitter at @Bob_Robinson_re