Theology of Work - Lesson 5

Spiritual Gifts

Gerry Breshears
Theology of Work
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Spiritual Gifts

Lesson 5 - Spiritual Gifts

  1. Identifying spiritual gifts
  1. 1 Corinthians 12
  1. Romans 12
  1. 1 Peter 4
  1. Ephesians 4


  1. The relationship between abilities and gifts


  1. Finding your spiritual gift


  1. The gift of prophecy

1 Corinthians 14:1, 24






Spiritual Gifts 1Position Paper

Gerry Breshears, PhD

Western Seminary, Portland


A spiritual gift is any Spirit spirit-empowered ability that is used in any ministry of the church. As Jesus-Followers we must not be ignorant about our gifts but to use them to worship God, serve His people and fulfill our mission of making disciples of all nations (1 Cor. 12:1-11).  Spiritual gifts are bestowed by God through the empowerment of His Spirit and must be exercised in love by following biblical principles and guidelines (1 Cor. 13-14). They are all connected to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21-22). Everyone has at least one gift and most Jesus-Followers have several.  No person has all the gifts and gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, not earned.  While there are many different kinds of gifts ranging from quite supernatural (working of miracles) to quite natural (administration) all are Spirit empowered abilities and continue the mission of Jesus. The common differentiation between spiritual gifts and natural talents is usually over drawn. Some examples of spiritual gifts can be found in 1 Cor. 12:8-11, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 4:9-11.


Definitions of Gifts Listed in 1 Cor. 12:8-11:


Word of wisdom:   The Spirit empowered ability to take the principles of God’s word and practically apply them to everyday life situations.


Word of knowledge: The Spirit empowered ability to research, remember and make effective use of information on a many different subjects.


Faith:  The Spirit empowered ability to trust and act on God’s revelation or character, especially when it empowers others to do the same. The gift of faith is an expectancy, conviction, certainty and assurance that God will act in an evident way to change circumstances or conditions in response to a need e.g. unusual finances, special provision, divine healing, needed breakthrough, divine protection, deliverance from demonic power, etc.


Healing:  The Spirit empowered ability to reverse the destructive impact of sin through physical, emotional, or spiritual healing to bring both comfort and health to those who are suffering. It is a gift many Christian physicians and counselors exercise in the course of their working.


Miracles:   The Spirit empowered ability to call upon God to do supernatural acts that reveal His power. 


However that working may not be of the LORD, so we must test the gifts. Satan is a great counterfeiter. Matt. 24:24

a.         Does it promote Jesus as God in the flesh? 1 John 4:1-4

b.         Does it follow scriptural principles? Deut. 13:1-5

c.         Does it encourage submission or rebellion? 1 Pet. 4:10-11

d.         Does it edify? 1 Cor. 12:7

e.         Is it exercised lovingly? 1 Cor. 13


Prophecy:   The Spirit empowered proclamation of the Word of God that presses deep into the hearts of people, enabling them to see their lives and circumstances in light of God’s promises, priorities and purposes. The message may be directly from God or from Scripture. It is usually God's perspective on present events or persons but may also predict the future. In any case, it is God's message proclaimed in the power of the Spirit.


We must test any revelation or prophecy (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1):

a.         Are the speaker and the message loyal to the LORD? Deut. 13:1-11; 18:20

b.         Is it consistent with Scripture?  Deut. 13:1-11; 1 Kings 13:15-18

c.         Is what they describe or predict accurate? Deut. 18:22

d.         Is their character Christ-like Jer. 23:9-40; Micah 3:5-10

e.         Does their word lead to up-building and encouragement? 1 Cor. 14:3

f.         Do the elders affirm their word?  1 Cor. 14:29


Distinguishing between spirits:  The Spirit empowered ability to recognize whether people, events, or beliefs are from Satan or God, to distinguish truth from error.


Speaking in Tongues:  The Spirit empowered ability to praise God or pray to God in languages unknown to the user. Tongues are spoken to God and prophecy is spoken to people (1 Cor. 14:2-3).


Interpreting Tongues:  The Spirit empowered ability to interpret languages unknown to the user. 


Some Common Questions:


When do we get gifts?

It could be any time, including birth, conversion, as we mature, or for special needs.


How many gifts are there?

The biblical gift lists contain approximately 20 different gifts. The scriptural lists are exemplary rather than extensive, so there are many gifts not specifically listed in Scripture. The variety in the gift lists gives indication of the diverse workings which the Spirit does in the people of God to continue the mission of Jesus.


Has the Spirit stopped giving some of the gifts?

They are all still active as the Spirit wills to give them. The Bible is complete and our only inerrant, trustworthy authority. Prophecy and revelation continue and must be tested carefully. It is not love or gifts, but love expressed in gifts.


How do you discover your gift? 

Ask yourself “What am I good at?”  “What am I passionate about?”   “What do others confirm in me?” Remember that most gifts are not listed in Scripture so don’t limit your search to those lists. Most spiritual gift inventories are misleading at best since they are built on a specific list of gifts.


When does a natural talent become a spiritual gift?

When ability is Spirit empowered and used for accomplishing the mission of the Jesus.


Are any gifts to be sought?

We can ask freely, but it is the Spirit who decides and distributes.


Are any gifts for all people?

Yes. In 1 Cor. 14:1 Paul exhorts all to prophesy that is to speak God’s Word with transforming power.


What does Paul mean by “greater gifts (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:5)?”

They are gifts that edify the church more and bring more benefit to others. That some gifts are greater does not mean others are unimportant or that those having greater gifts are better Christians.


What about speaking in tongues?

Tongues are for praising God and for prayer (1 Cor. 14). For instance, in Acts 2:11 the 120 disciples speak in tongues and declare the wonders of God. That is praise. Others hear the praise in their own languages and wonder what’s going on, accusing them of being drunk. Peter explains this in his evangelistic Pentecost sermon. (Acts 2:14-21).    Paul specifically says one who speaks in a tongue (language) speaks to God, not other people. (1 Cor. 14:2)  Verse 16 says tongues are praising God. Verse 14 and 15 speak of praying in a tongue (language). Paul clearly thinks tongues are good: In verse 18, he says he speaks in tongues more than all of them. The abuse in Corinth was that they were claiming speaking in tongues as a mark of superior spirituality. They were indulging in uncontrolled public tongues thinking that flaunting their gift was a sign of God’s blessing on them. Unbelievers who experienced the chaos saw it as a sign that they were out of their mind (1 Cor. 14:23). Paul’s basic point about tongues in the gathering of the church is don’t forbid it (1 Cor. 14:39) but to exercise the gift using biblical guidelines. 


 What are biblical guidelines for speaking in tongues in a church assembly?

1 Cor. 14:26-28, 39-40 establishes clear guidelines for speaking in tongues.  Paul asserts that only two or three should speak and one at a time (v.27), there must be interpretation or the speaker should refrain from speaking out loud (v.28) and there must be control, not confusion (v.33, 40). 




Class Resources

We are created in God's image and God invites us to be co-workers with him. By developing and using the spiritual gifts God has given us, the tasks we perform when we work have eternal significance in themselves. We also have opportunities to interact with our co-workers, promote justice and enjoy times of rest.

So what is God calling you to do? Is his calling only for pastors and “professional ministers” or is it something that applies to all of his people? Dr. Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology at Western Seminary, explores key questions such as who God is, what he has created people to be, how being the image of God affects the way we approach work, and what is the role of spiritual gifts in our job. This course will expand your vision of what work is all about, as you come to see yourself as God’s co-worker and representative.

Theology of Work

Dr. Gerry Breshears


Spiritual Gifts

Lesson Transcript


When we talk about this whole issue of theology of work, one of the issues that comes up in the background of the theology is this whole issue of of gifts, of spiritual gifts, is a is an important thing. It's foundational. It comes up in a number of places in Scripture. I'm looking here at first Corinthians chapter 12, for example, where it says he does not want us to be ignorant about spirituals, literally, and talks back to the earlier days. And it says there in verse four, there are different kinds of gifts, but one spirit, different kinds of service, but one Lord, different kinds of working. He uses three different words there to describe the same thing, you know, be translated as gifts, service and working. It's the same God who works all of these things in all people. That's interesting. God works all these things in all people. Does he mean all Christians? Are these mean all people? Humans? And then it lists some of them. A manifestation was given for the common good, and it lists quite a number of them. There are. And at the end of it, it says all these work of one in the same spirit. He gives them to each one just as he determines. So which gift we have is really clear. It's God who decides which gift we have. Like in my case, I when I was in the Philippines, I was well after Typhoon Yearling came through, we were literally blown out of our duplex. The typhoon blew the roof off of the house and so it was unlivable. And we were in the guest house. Don Francis caught for a whole month or so. And while we're living down there in less than adequate, I mean, the quarters are great.


Just wasn't a lot of room for us and our kids were in one room I there was another house there. Well there are seven houses and Francis court at that point and somebody said, go to that house, knock on the door. And when the man answers, So you've come to pray. And I laughed. No way. And no, dear, you, you really should do that. I said, I'm not going to knock on somebody's door and say, I've come here to pray. No, really, you should do that. Why should I do that? I said, being increasingly skeptical and not wanting to be pushed into this ridiculous thing to go to a total stranger, he said, This man has the gift of prayer. Really? I said, No, tell me about that. He said, Well, I really can't. You just need to go experience it. He was from another country, Vietnam, as I remember it, up in there somewhere. And he was in Manila for all for medical stuff. So pressed I went and knocked on the door with kind of a silly feeling. And this older man, probably younger than I am now, answered and I said, kind of shrugged his shoulders. Let him come here to pray. Oh, come in, come in, he said. I did. And he said, What's your name? And I said, Gary. And he told me his, and I've forgotten it. I'm sorry. I because what happened after that for the next hour was a unique experience in my entire life. He said, Oh, come in and pray. Oh, there was a coffee table in the middle of the small living room there in the house there and Francis Court. And we just knelt there at the coffee table, put pillows on the floor and knelt, leaned up against the coffee table, and he just began to pray.


And I have never before, nor since had an experience like that. It was just incredible. Wow. I and I it wasn't me just listening to him, you know, I participated in, too. And there was a freedom of prayer there. Wow. And after I got done, he had to go to a doctor's appointment, something I and then I never saw him again. He left shortly after that and went back to the country he was from. And I immediately said to God, I want it. I want the gift of prayer. I mean, this is so cool. Nothing happened. I mean, I pray that was when I came back to Christ in college. That was foundational. And coming back to Christ was those long nights where I just read Scripture and meditate on it and pray. Scripture in prayer was just so critical in those early days of my renewed Christian life. And prayers always been an important part of my life. But man, God, I want the gift of prayer. No, God. You've got other gifts. Do those. I want the gift of prayer. God. And you know, this is, what, 40. See? 1971. This is 2011. So 40 years later, I'm still telling God I want to give to prayer. I'm not really expecting it, but I still want it blazing. When I tell that story, people immediately say, Gary, there's no gift of prayer. I mean, read the scripture. It's not there. I think there is. I think when you look at the four major gifts lists, Romans 12, first Corinthians 12, there's two of them. And first, Peter, four and maybe Ephesians four. Do I think those are gifted people who bless the church? There is nothing common to the lists. Prophecy isn't one that appears more than once, and there's quite a wide variety of giving gifts.


And most everybody who writes on gifts now agrees with that. The more mature theologian types, there are still a lot of books that talk about the 19 gifts or the nine gifts or the 24 gifts or something. And spiritual gift inventories are based on the idea that there are 19 or 21 or 23 gifts. But I really believe that Paul has just taken from a larger list on First Corinthians 12. There are two different lists and they don't agree with each other. I mean, there's only one overlapping and that's prophecy. So I go with many believing that these are just sample lists from a much larger thing. And I think prayer is a spiritual gift. It's a little bit like evangelism. Everybody has to tell the gospel of Jesus Christ. But some people are gifted in that. They just have a facility and bring people to Christ or they have a facility in helping others grow in that gift. I think prayer to give like that, I'm it's it's like the gift of worship in the Old Testament. It's not only that you do it, but you help others participate and do it themselves better. Gift of Prayer. Now, I've already been controversial because the gift of prayer, a lot of people say isn't there? I think there is. What is a gift or a service or a working, as he puts it in first Corinthians 12, the definition that I use, I actually use a definition from Wayne Goodwin, my friend who teaches at Phenix Seminary in his systematic theology. It's one of the many places where we deeply agree with each other, and he defines a spiritual gift as any spirit empowered ability that is used in any ministry of the church. The spiritual gift is any spirit empowered ability that is used in any ministry of the church.


Now, when you think of the ministry of the church, I mean, we think of pastors, we think of Sunday school teachers, we think of all that inside the building, but we also think of outside the building outreach, doing deeds of mercy. But it's important to remember that the church is people. The church is people. And wherever we as church go, we gather for worship and instruction and sacrament. We gather for the work of the ministry wherever we go, all of us doing the work of the ministry. And that gifting is any spirit empowered ability that is used in any ministry of the church in matter where. So when I look at at the spiritual gifts I see on one hand I see things like although this year in First Corinthians 12, it talks about prophecy and discerning spirits and tongues and interpretation of tongues and that sort of thing. And those are what we might call supernatural gifts. Are there? Of course, not just inside the building, but by the church. But when I look in Romans chapter 12, ROMANS Chapter 12. Oh, Paul talks like this. He's done by the grace given me. I used to say to everyone that you don't think yourself more highly. And then he goes on down into verse six. He says, We have different gifts according to Grace given us, if a man's gift is prophesying, there's one that's common. Let him use it in proportion to his faith if it is serving. Remember, service appears not as a gift, but a category in first Corinthians fold. Let him serve. If it's teaching, let him cheat, encouraging, encourage. If it's contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it's leadership, let him do it diligently.


If it's showing mercy. I look at that and I think, you know, there's quite a list there. Prophecy is very spirit empowered. It's very supernatural, if you can say that in the sense that is speaking forth God's word with power. But some other things, encouragement. Gosh, I know lots of encouraging people who are even Christian mercy, leadership or administration, some of the best leaders around. Are not Christians. I think of our oh, we just we're just in the process. As I tape this was Steven Jobs doing stuff at at Apple Computer. I know somebody who knows him and I hear some of the stories of him and he's an enigmatic, amazing figure, the leadership that he's given Apple Computer over the years. Or Bill Gates at Microsoft. I'm a Windows guy, by the way. The amazing leadership that these two men have given to their companies are astonishing. Astonishing. Condoleezza Rice, indifferent as no, maybe I should use her because she's a believer. I mean, she's a strong believer. I know the church. She's out in Stanford. I but Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not Christian at all. But amazing leadership. That's an ability. No. My name is Gary and I have opinion about everything, but I think I'm right on this one. I don't think there's a fundamental difference between gifts and abilities. I really don't. I the first Corinthians 12, we saw the everyone stuff that kept coming up and in the spirit empowered side. In Romans chapter 12, we see that same kind of thing. We see some extraordinary gifts, prophecy. We see some ordinary gifts, administration or leadership. And that's where when Tim and I and many others agree that we have an ability that comes from God, and when that ability is spirit empowered, then it becomes a spiritual gift.


But it's the same ability. I know I've been a Christian, you know, I've always believed in Jesus. So again, I may not be the best example, but I was clearly had a gift of teaching. It's as a second grader in a one room schoolhouse there in in Missouri. I was the one who was helping other kids and I was teaching them. And it wasn't that I studied teaching. It's just it just very natural for me to do that. And I've done it now for all these years. I'm it's pretty amazing to see that I early thing. And then as I've gotten more serious about my work of the ministry, that teaching has had a greater spirit empowerment and has had quite a quite an impact. And I love it. I'm. Follow with me here just for a minute. If if a spiritual gift is any spirit empowered ability that is used in the service of Jesus Christ and in any ministry of the church, that definition, then what that suggests is that if somebody is really good at plumbing, that that could be a spiritual gift. Do you believe in the spiritual gift of plumbing? I actually do. It's not a common enough spiritual gift, actually. We need the World View Center here. We decided that plumbers were an unreached people group, and we need to get more plumbers to become Christian. I But if somebody is a plumber and by the spirits, empowerment serves other people in the name of Jesus and for the creation of Shalom in this world, human flourishing spirit gift, the ability to run technology. John and I had quite the adventure because there was sound in the system and and John is technically gifted and he uses his gift of things.


And we messed with this and messed with that. Finally found out that if we put the receiver on the wireless microphone in the front side of me and said the back side of me, it would work. I wouldn't have thought of that in the next hundred thousand years. But John is gifted in this area and his enhance that is there the spiritual gift of sound technician. What do you think, John? Service. Service, he says, is a Category C. I haven't even convinced my friend here of my position. I service is a category, sure, but I want to say that sound technician is a gift of God. Greg is the chief guy. He's agreeing with me behind the camera. I should make him come over here and say I agree. Sort of. Greg is the chief sound guy in our in our building here in our church. He has an amazing ability to match things out so the sound works well. And sound systems are so complicated these days. And boy, they enhance the work of the ministry. Is there a gift of sound technician? Absolutely. I'd say absolutely. Spiritual gift is any spirit empowered ability that is used for the Ministry of Jesus Christ by any member of the church, in any ministry of the church. Remember, ministry is not just inside the building and not just religious. I'm a person who goes out and works it at Safeway and uses an ability to keep track of details. I'm describing my son here I is serving in a spiritual gift in safe way. So when David went to work for Safeway here or several months ago now, they quickly put him into a management position and he has gone through and reorganized the back side of that store.


So it's way more effective now than it was just a and he's saving them. And he estimated how much money he has saved Safeway just through using product. Well, and he's way more than paid for his salary simply by making a more efficient in the back room of the store that is And he's a my son is a gifted guy and that kind of hands on service, fervent disciple of Jesus Christ. And everybody in the store knows that David is a Christian because he just so obvious about it and it's just so natural to him. He is using his ability in a spirit empowered way in a, quote, secular environment to do the work at the ministry. Spiritual gifts, natural talents. I don't think there's a fundamental difference in the two, except that it becomes a spiritual gift when the spirit empowers it and we use it for Jesus. So how do you find your spiritual gift? Well, first of all, that's not a scriptural thing at all. Scripture says to use your gift. It assumes, apparently, that we know what our gift is. So how do you find it? Well, one way is to use some sort of a spiritual gift inventory or something like that, and look through the list here in Scripture. The depending on your account, 19 or 21 or 23 or whatever it is, and say, which one of these do I have? I don't think that's the way to do it. I think the way to look at spiritual gifts are is to think, what am I good at? What do I love doing? What does the spirit empower in my life such that it affects and works out the Divine Rescue mission that is the Church's ministry I and anything you're.


Do that. And as you do it in the service of Jesus Christ, it becomes a joy to you is a spiritual gift. I, i while I was taping this session earlier, I unbeknownst to me, my tire on my van went flat almost. I'm kind of oblivious of such things, but it was sitting out here in the parking lot and one of the students sort knew it was my van contacted Jason, the grounds guy who took his pump out and pumped it up. I went to the tire store, almost brand new tires, and some guy there fixed my tire, took the nail out and re patched it. Now, let's assume the guy in the tire store is a believer in Jesus Christ. Let's assume that I'm not. And this guy is in there fixing tires, which this guy was good at. I was amazed at what he did and how smoothly and quickly he did it. Is there spiritual gift of fixing tires for the service, the human community? I think so. I think so. If if if he's good at it, loves it, does it for the service. Others in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I really think that is. No, I get it. And I don't think it makes any difference in that spiritual gift, whether it's something that's done like teaching or prophesying or something that's obviously Jesus related, or whether it's one of those many services that just make for human flourishing, make for shalom. In our world, it's the spiritual gift. And when that ability is used by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus showing the love of the Father so that Shalom is achieved. Spiritual gifts. Now what about some of the spiritual gifts? The one that we're all called to do is and there's only one.


And that's in First Corinthians 12, right at the end of the passage, First Corinthians 12, right at the end, he says. So desire, eagerly desire the greatest gifts. Then he has that marvelous chapter on love. Because no matter what our gift, if we're not loving it, it's a, you know, clanging cymbal. And then it picks up again right at the beginning of Chapter 14, Follow the way of love and eagerly desires spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. I think that's the one gift that God calls us all to have. Now, of course, there's a huge issue there, and what is the definition of prophecy or I think prophecy is the spirit empowered ability to speak out the word of God. So that penetrates deep into the lives of other people. I think we see that later in First Corinthians 14, where it says, if a nonbeliever comes in, this is verse 24, I and everyone is prophesying, speaking the word of God with power. He'll be convinced by all that he's a sinner and be judged by all and the secrets his heart be laid bare. He will follow and worship God and say, God is really among you. And what's happening here is, as we speak, the word of God, it penetrates deep into the lives of other people. The most common source, the word of God, I think, is the Bible. I when I read Isaiah, for example, I recognized Torah all over the place. And it's like Isaiah standing there with his Bible open on his finger in the text, exhorting the people to be faithful to Yahweh in light of the promises that go back to Torah, another new material and to of course. But I think the same as for us today.


Most prophecy is speaking the word of God with power, with spirit empowerment. So that penetrates deep in the lives of people calling them to God's purpose in God's kingdom. So I think we should all deserve that gift. Unlike my desire for prayer, my desire for prophecy is to be able to use God's Word powerfully in the Ministry of equipping, exhorting, comforting those things that are there in First Corinthians 14, strengthening, encouraging, comforting, edifying, First Corinthians 14 three and four. I think we should all desire that gift, and I think we should all have that gift. Sometimes prophecy means getting new revelation. I I've been in situations in ministry where I believe God has given me supernatural knowledge to know things about another person that I could not know through human means. I've had that happen to me on. Occasion or other people have more often. Of course, we're supposed to test those words and be sure the scripture is very, very, very clear. Test the prophet, test the spirits. We must do that. I but I think there are. But the primary gift of prophecy is speaking God's scripture with power, because spirit brings that deep into me and I'm able to speak it out with Spirit's power in the lives of other people. And one of things I've discovered here more recently as I've been kind of focusing on that, is there are times when I have literally just quoted scripture to somebody, but in a conscious reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, I've seen the very words of Scripture have huge impact in people's lives, just astonishing impact for encouraging or correction. I think that's a lot of what prophecy is about. We can talk about other gifts and that would be another course I'll put on the DVD here.


I'll put a hand out that summarized some of my understandings of these things, and you can look at it and contact me. I've had a lot of discussion around this and I enjoyed doing that. But what I want to do is say is we think about the theology of work, is that this gifting is that ability that we have, that when it is spirit empowered, it furthers the divine rescue mission. And that is a powerful thing. And I don't think we can do our work without understanding our gifting the way God has shaped us in our abilities and personality. And I think that's real helpful to think through. So spiritual gives spirit empowered ability, use for the Ministry of the Gospel, wherever that is. Great topic.


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