(Note: This article was posted on the Coram Deo blog.)
A while back, it occurred to me that I have never posted an article on my blog addressing the topic of spiritual gifts. This was surprising, as I had discussed this topic in several places in my book (which I also posted in articles on my blog) and in an article I wrote a year ago. I thought it would be helpful to consolidate these ideas here, and then flesh out this critical topic a little more in a separate article.
To help set the stage, so my readers don’t have to go scrambling to find a concordance, here are the passages in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul mentions the importance of spiritual gifts for all believers, which are discussed below: Rom. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12:4-11 and 12:28, and Eph. 4:11-13.
Spirit-filled tabernacle construction workers
Here is a summary of the insights I shared in my book, regarding a great narrative from the book of Exodus that highlights the gifted workers who were called to build the tabernacle in the wilderness.
This episode about Spirit-filled tabernacle construction workers also clearly ties in with the New Testament concept of spiritual gifts. In 1 Cor. 12:7, Paul highlights the value of these Spirit-filled abilities: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Tying this verse to the passage in Exodus helps us understand that these artistic talents to be able to fashion wood, metal, fabric, perfume, and provide leadership, can easily be seen as OT examples of spiritual gifts.
We see a clear connection here between God’s presence and human work. The workers that God called and equipped were not evangelists, preachers, or missionaries. They were ordinary men and women in secular jobs who were willing to be used to contribute to God’s kingdom. God will use people just like that today in order to build His church, both inside and outside its walls.
Nelson, in Work Matters, boldly states that “You were created with work in mind. You have been gifted to do a particular work. As a follower of Christ who has been born from above, you have been equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make an important vocational contribution, a contribution that God has providentially arranged for you to make in this world.” Meditate on this, and your attitude toward work will change.
Viewing our identity
I also shared a few thoughts on spiritual gifts in terms of how we see ourselves as Christian workers.
It is important to apply the principles that the Apostle Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 12 where he compares spiritual gifts/abilities with body parts. All are necessary; none are more or less important than the other parts. We cannot take pride in what we are called to do, looking down on others who have different callings. All in Christ have equal value.
I also mentioned in my book (and in article I posted on my blog) that evangelists were among the few positions in the church that Paul records in Eph. 4:11-13, even though they were not included in the main passage on spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12:4-11, or in 12:28. However, these positions Paul lists are considered by most to be spiritual gifts because they line up with their purpose in v. 12, “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”.
More importantly, in 1 Cor. 12:12-26, Paul emphasized that all members of the body of Christ have value, function, and purpose. Each one needs to use their gifts, not look down on others who do not have those gifts, and to appreciate the contributions of all.
If evangelism is a spiritual gift, I must conclude that not all Christians are called to be evangelists. We are all called to be ready to share the reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). But those who do not have that gift of evangelism need not feel guilty if they do not have the same passionate desire to share the gospel with everyone they see all of the time, just like those with this gift do not have the same drives and motivations as others in the Body of Christ to be administrators, serve, have mercy, teach, etc.
Every team member contributes
In my article, “Building Your Team by Showing Dignity and Respect” I wrote about spiritual gifts.
In 1 Cor. 12:12-26, we read a brilliant analogy concerning various parts of the human body. In context, Paul had just been teaching about spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1-11). He writes that there are a variety of spiritual abilities that every Christian has that the Holy Spirit gives to each one as He wishes. In the same way, the human body is made up of many parts and forms one complete body.
These individual body parts failed to understand that they each had a divine purpose and were connected to one another and to the head, just like this local body of believers, whose members forgot their unity in Christ. The foot should not think that it does not belong to the body just because it is not a hand. If the foot was missing, how would the body walk around? Additionally, the eye can’t say to the hand that it is not needed. Every part contributes to the whole. What Paul is saying to them (and us) is this: every member of the team is essential, has a unique purpose, performs a necessary function, and is to be valued by the other members. We need each other.
Here is what it would look like at my work. One of my sergeants could say, “Well, I am not an officer. Officers are really important. What I do doesn’t matter.” One of the male employees could say, “Why do we have females on our team? They are different. We don’t need them.” These are not helpful.
What would it look like at your place of employment? Do your custodians or administrative assistants feel like valued members of your organization? Are there leaders at or near the top of the chain who do not recognize or value the contributions that everyone on the team brings? You can change that!
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 40 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty and now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He has written 170 articles on faith and work topics on this blog since 2015. Eighty of these articles have been published over 150 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, and The Gospel Coalition.