What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?

By Pastor Ron Jones, D.D., © Titus Institute, 2003

Spiritual gifts are given so the Holy Spirit can work through the gifted believer to spiritually benefit other believers in the body of Christ and reach out to those who are not believers. 1 Cor.12:7 calls a spiritual gift a "a manifestation (or display) of the Spirit." The Holy Spirit works through us as we use our spiritual gifts to display His power in the body.

When you exercise your spiritual gift in the body, the Holy Spirit will work through you to build up other believers. It is that simple, but profound. For example, a believer is suffering from an illness. The Holy Spirit moves in the heart of the believer who has the gift of mercy to go to the hospital and comfort the ill saint. When he does, the Holy Spirit is sharing His comfort of that ill saint through the gifted saint. And that ill saint is comforted. Another example: a believer is falling into sin. The Holy Spirit moves in the heart of a believer with the gift of exhortation, who then goes to the other saint and encourages and urges them on to obedience in Christ. Thus the Holy Spirit works in the lives of others through the spiritual gifts given to us.

CAUTION: DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND! All believers have responsibility to visit those we know who are sick and the Lord will use us to comfort them. But those who have the gift of mercy, God has particularly gifted to comfort the suffering and they can be used by the Holy Spirit in an especially effective way to relieve the suffering of others. All those who see a brother in sin, should go and exhort them to turn to God, and the Holy Spirit will use them. But there are those who are particularly gifted to do it. It is not an either or proposition, but a both and. It is not if I do not have a particular gift the Holy Spirit won't work through me to minister. Rather, the Holy Spirit uses us as we care about others and the Holy Spirit has given us a gift through which we will particularly be effective in ministering to others.

We should look to focus our energy on ministering with our giftedness while still caring about those around us. It is in the area of my giftedness that the Holy Spirit wants me to focus my ministry and where I can be most effective in helping the body of Christ grow. And those with a particular gift will also focus on ministry that gift to the body at large, not just to those they know. An orchestra conductor can often play many instruments, but is really proficient at only one or two. If he were to play in an orchestra, he would be wise to focus on the instrument he plays proficiently rather than the other ones. Yet he can fill in when the need arises in several places. It is the same for us in the body of Christ. All of us can minister in a variety of ways, but God has made us able to do one or two things proficiently. That is where we need to focus our time and energy. This means for those believers who try to serve in too many ministries they should focus on doing one or two things effectively, what they do best, rather than doing alot of things in an average way.

This also gives us great confidence when we minister. If I were to ask you if you would like the Holy Spirit to work through you to display His power? What would you say? YES! Well, exercise your spiritual gift and the Holy Spirit will work through you. Notice the Holy Spirit desires to use us for the spiritual good of others. 1 Cor. 12:7 says that it is to be used for the common good. Common good refers to the spiritual good or benefit of the members of the body of Christ. John 13:34 indicates that we are to love one another, be concerned about one another. Our spiritual gifts are given so that we can meet each other's needs and thus fulfill that command given by our Lord.

If a person with the gift of teaching or exhortation sits studying the Word and does not share that knowledge he is gaining with others, then he is hoarding his gift and not using it for the purpose it was given. In finding a place of ministry, rather than asking ourselves "Where is the need?" we should be asking ourselves "How am I gifted and how can I use that gift in this body?"

If we were to all do this the whole body would come alive in every area.