“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB)
The matter of spiritual gifts has generated much discussion. In some cases it has generated much heat but not so much light, but even so the discussion is good if it helps us to grow in our understanding of what spiritual gifts are all about.
Our tendency is to compartmentalize spiritual gifts in much the same way as we try to segment various aspects of our lives. The “Greek” view of life does this, and most of us have been influenced more by that way of thinking. For example, we tend to compartmentalize work, church, social life, education, family and so on. This helps us to organize and to focus on one aspect of life at a time. The “Jewish” view of life was much more “wholistic” in tone and tends to see life more as a whole with the various aspects of life as simply facets of the whole.
Since Paul probably wrote more from the Jewish viewpoint, we should probably try to view spiritual gifts not as separate entities but as facets of the whole. Further, we should probably view people with spiritual gifts rather than spiritual gifts as some kind of objective, concrete expression of the Holy Spirit. This particular text does not say that the Lord gave spiritual gifts; it says that He gave “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” The gifts do not simply exist out there in the spiritual realm, so that the Holy Spirit pulls them off a shelf and hands them to us to try on. The Lord gifts us with people whom He has enabled to serve in a special capacity.
That said, it is the purpose of the gifts the Spirit enables us to use that is crucial. There can be no legitimate sense of pride with regard to spiritual gifts. The important thing is what the Spirit intends for them to accomplish, and that is clear. All of them are given for the training of God’s people so that God’s people can serve in all the ways God calls them to serve. The Holy Spirit wants His gifts to build up the body of Christ, lead us toward unity, and toward a growing maturity, so that our lives take on a genuine consistency and perseverance. Genuine spiritual gifts, thus, do not bring attention to themselves but to what God wants them to achieve. That needs to be the measure of the validity of a spiritual gift.
Lord, Today may the gifts You have put into each of us achieve all that You intend for them to achieve. Amen.