Gifts Applied to Everyone?|
Q. My friend says everyone has the gift of evangelism and hospitality. Everyone should make evangelism our number one priority and open our homes to all unbelievers to facilitate our evangelistic efforts. Is it true there are some gifts everyone has? Can you give me a simple overview of gifts and how they work for Christians?
If your friend is correct we are in deep trouble in our household. That is because even though I care a lot about others, I am a nervous wreck being around people for over an hour at a time. I tend to function best studying and writing alone in my den.
Also, my partner finds it difficult to be around young children for very long and would not perform well with lots of guests, either. Furthermore, having been raised in a household of unbelievers and a few atheists I am timid about arguing my faith aggressively, too.
Are we failures because of it?
Thankfully, no, I do not think so.
One Special Gift per Person
The Bible says every Christian has received at least one, special spiritual gift:
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet 4:10).
No One has them All
No one Christian has all of the gifts. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he writes,
"All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues? do they? All do not interpret, do they?" (1 Cor 12:29-30).
God hand-picks Them
God chooses our gifts uniquely for each of us. It may be our task to search out and find our own unique gifts. But it is God who decides what those gifts are:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (1 Cor 12:7-11, NASB).
Pastor Johnson points out that "the use of our gifts is for the 'common good' of the body of Christ, the church. I use mine to edify you and you use yours to edify me. That's the idea, and that organic exchange needs to be happening consistently among us if we are going to grow in likeness to Christ (Eph 4:11-16)" (Johnson 2010, 1).
Finding our Spiritual Gift
Johnson continues, "You might be thinking, 'I don't even know what my spiritual gift is.' Well, it is hard to steer a ship that is not moving. So get moving. Just get active - serve! And while you are serving, look back and see how God is using you."
"If you try to teach, and you study and you work really hard and apply yourself to the task, but find that you struggle to put one sentence together with another in a way that helps people understand, then you probably don't have the gift of teaching - or at least no one has the gift of listening to you. That is fine!"
"But it may be that in your serving, you can look back and see that God has used you to encourage people on a number of occasions in meaningful ways so that the body of Christ has really been built up. Perhaps you have the gift of encouragement? Or maybe you can see that God really used you to help people in a number of meaningful ways. Or perhaps you will find that you have the gift of service or of giving or of leadership or of mercy (Rom 12:7-8). The point is that we all need to be active and functioning properly if the body as a whole is going to grow" (Johnson 2010, 1).
In our experience Pastor Johnson is correct. We suggest volunteering for lots of church activities. Work the nursery next Sunday. You should know within minutes if you are suited to the needs of toddlers. Volunteer to teach Sunday school. Did you enjoy it? Or be willing to help with gardening, cooking, painting building structures or fund raising.
Host a bible study in your home. Write a news item for the weekly bulletin. Visit the sick and the home bound or the elderly. It will not be long before you can say, "That is my special gift. That is what I really want to do."
While it is true we all need to love one another and "Be hospitable to one another without complaint" (1 Pet 4:9) that does not mean we all have to make it our number one priority to present the four spiritual laws and entertain strangers and unbelievers with lavish dinners and elegant parties. Not everyone can do that successfully or with ease.
Gift of Evangelism
The gift of evangelism is a special ability given by God to proclaim the salvation gospel so effectively that people respond to its message and convert to Christianity. Billy Graham is a good example of one with the gift of evangelism. It is a unique gift given to some, but not to all.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11).
Gift of Hospitality
Finally, the gift of hospitality is a special ability given by God to invite strangers to your home or church and provide a warm welcome for those who may need food and lodging. For example, it might include those in your church who find it especially enjoyable to house visiting missionaries for a night or two in their homes, "contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality" (Ro 12:13).
Lydia is a good biblical example of one who had the gift of hospitality. She was a successful business woman who made purple dyes. Once she and her household were baptized after hearing Paul's evangelistic message, she asked Paul's team to "come into my house and stay" (Acts 16:15). It was something she clearly wanted to do and felt she had the means to do it.
Holy Spirit is Sovereign
Grudem notes that we must remember that "the Holy Spirit is still sovereign in distributing gifts: he 'apportions to each one individually as he will' (1 Cor 12:11). The word here translated 'apportions' is a present participle, which indicates continuing activity over time, and we could paraphrase, 'The Holy Spirit is always continuing to distribute or apportion gifts to each person individually just as he wills to do.' This means that, although it is ordinarily the custom of the Holy Spirit to continue to empower the same gift or gifts in people over time, nonetheless, there is a continual willing and deciding of the Holy Spirit to do this or not, and he may for his own reasons withdraw a gift for a time, or cause it to be much stronger or much weaker than it was (Grudem 1994, 1026).
Grudem continues, "To balance this emphasis on seeking and growing in spiritual gifts we must also remember that Paul clearly says that spiritual gifts are apportioned to each person individually by the Holy Spirit 'as he wills' (1 Cor. 12:11), and that 'God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose' (1 Cor. 12:18). He says that God has put various gifts in the church and not all are apostles or prophets or teachers (1 Cor. 12:28-30). In this way he reminds the Corinthians that ultimately the distribution of gifts is a matter of God's sovereign will, and it is for the good of the church and for our good that none of us have all of the gifts, and that we will need continually to depend on others who have gifts differing from ours. These considerations should make us content if God chooses not to give us the other gifts that we seek" (Grudem 1994, 1030).
Grudem, Wayne. 1994. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, Brian. 2010. Newsbreak. May issue. Vol. XXV. No. 276. Applegate Community Church. Available from: www.applegatechurch.org.
NKJV Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2007).
Ryrie Study Bible, NASB (Chicago: Moody, 1996).