Theology of Work - Lesson 5

Spiritual Gifts

Gerry Breshears
Theology of Work
Lesson 5
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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). 




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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.

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