What Is the Purpose of Spiritual Gifts?
A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
1 Corinthians 12:7
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Paul explains that the Holy Spirit gives a wide variety of gifts. In the next section, he lists a number of specific gifts: including word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. This list is meant to be illustrative and suggestive, because there are many other spiritual gifts that are not included here (see 1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:6-8).
Before mentioning several particular gifts, Paul states clearly and simply their primary purpose: "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other" (12:7). More literally, this verse reads: "But to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the benefit [sympheron]." The NLT rightly renders the sense of the Greek is saying that gifts are given "so we can help each other." Though being empowered by the Spirit surely encourages us in our own faith, gifts are not mainly for the one who exercises them, but rather for others.
There is an implication in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that will be spelled out with greater clarity in chapter 14. If the Holy Spirit gives gifts so we can help each other, then we will experience more of the Spirit's power, not by focusing on ourselves and our experiences, but rather by focusing on others and their needs. For example, if you think it would be wonderful to experience a gift of healing, don't try to rev up some sort of spiritual enthusiasm in yourself. Rather, reach out to pray for those who are sick. Or, if you want to experience a gift of evangelism, begin to share your faith with those who don't know the Lord. Manifestations of the Spirit come when we extend ourselves to minister to others.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you experienced the gifting of the Spirit for ministry? How has the Spirit empowered you to minister to others? Are there new ways God is calling you to step out in service to others?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the gifts you give us through your Spirit. Thank you for the variety of those gifts. And thank you for making clear their purpose. You empower us so that we might benefit others in the work of your kingdom. Your gifts strengthen us to help each other.
Help me, dear Lord, not to get so caught up in my own experience that I lose focus. Give me a heart of compassion for those in need around me. Give me courage to reach out to them. Empower me to serve, not just in my own strength, but in your power. May your gifts flow through me to others, and may you receive all the glory.
All praise be to you, O God, giver of all good gifts. Amen.