As I have discussed spiritual gifts and I have listed them as they are in the New Testament [Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11] I can easily see there are 31 but several gifts mentioned in these scriptures do overlap. Scripture says that Christians are given gifts by God and every Christian has at least one gift. Some may have more than one.
There are specific things about spiritual gifts that we should all know.
Why are we given spiritual gifts?
Ephesians 4:12 says “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” There are key words in this quote that tip us off about why we are given spiritual gifts. Those key words are “work of service” and “building up the body of Christ.” Work of service means that gifts are given to help others; they are not to be used selfishly. In 1 Corinthians 12:7 Paul says the gifts are given for the “common good” which means they are for the benefit of others. Paul further comments in Philippians 2: 3, 4 that we should do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
The phrase “building up the body” gives us additional insight about why we are given spiritual gifts. The spiritual gift[s] we are given are intended to work with other gifts that other people have to unite the church [often referred to as “the body of Christ”]. Note Paul’s comments in Ephesians 4: 3-7 when he says that we should be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body [one church] and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace [a special gift] was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Take note of the frequent use of the unity word “one.” Gifts should never divide the body of Christ; they should unify it.
When we are given gifts, what happens if we don’t use them?
There is a short answer; there will be an accounting. Billy Graham* says that “every believer will someday have to stand before the judgement seat of Christ to give an account of how faithfully he used his gifts, as well as his personal life before God and man” . Before you jump to any conclusions, some may say “but I have been saved!” How can I lose my salvation that I gained from our Christ on the cross! Truly our sins have been atoned for by Christ on the cross, but after salvation, every work must come into judgement and if we have faithfully used God’s gifts, “each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done whether good or bad” [2 Corinthians 5: 10]. This judgement which is called “bema” is reserved for Christians alone. It will not be judgement for the unbelieving world. That type of judgement is called the “Great White Throne judgement.” If the Christian can say I have done my best to use my gifts, the compensation [recompense] will be great. If the Christian has not made much of an effort, the compensation will be small.
Besides the core questions concerning why we are given gifts and what happens if we don’t use them, there is a question of credit. Spiritual gifts are never to be used for personal credit. Spiritual gifts are given for the glory of God. Many may struggle with this because many seek praise. Matthew 5:16 addresses this attitude in the words “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” [notice it says praise your Father instead of praise you].
We all have wonderful potential that can be developed in our lives, potential for expanding God’s glory in this world. Let me close with these very inspiring words from Pastor Mark Batterson: “Potential is God’s gift to us; what we do with it is our gift back to God.”
From his book The Holy Spirit