Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:1-7

I have heard it said that if you emphasize spiritual gifts, you will be putting everyone in a spiritual box and destroying the freedom to act as individuals. If anyone believes that, I can only assume they have a minimal understanding of how God manifests himself through the gifts he has given to the church in individual persons.

There are a few insights I would like to share from this passage in 1 Corinthians 12:1-7. The first is that the triune God is the source of gifts (charisms) to the church. Note here that we have gifts from the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

The Spirit: “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

The Son: “varieties of service, but the same Lord (Jesus).”

The Father: “varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”

Every Jesus-follower is a recipient of each category of gift identified here. Note that it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. All of them are empowered in everyone. So that includes you and me. These kingdom resources are in us by virtue of the grace of God. None of these categories are limited to a special group of “leaders” or professional ministers. They don’t require special education or ordination. They are charisms, gifts of grace, not honors one has earned.

Gifts from the Spirit

The first category, varieties of gifts from the Spirit, are specifically identified in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. They are referred to as “manifestations of the Spirit” in verse 7, which means that this is how the Holy Spirit makes his presence known or manifest. He is always present, but through these gifts, he makes that presence observable. It was through these same gifts that Jesus made the Father known during his earthly life. He healed the sick through the gifts of healings. He identified demons through the discerning of spirits. He identified the background of the woman at the well through the word of knowledge. He spoke the words of the Father through the gift of prophecy, etc. The only gifts that he apparently did not experience were the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. God makes himself known through us in the same manner as he did with Jesus, through these “manifestations” of the Spirit.

These manifestations are not available at the whim of any individual believer. “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”1 The distribution of these manifestations is subject to the sovereign Spirit.

Gifts from the Son

The gifts of the Son are found in Ephesians 4:7-16 with the specific list in verse 11. These are apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd (or pastor), and teacher (APEST). It is through these that Jesus imparts his fullness to the church. He is the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the shepherd, and the teacher, all in one package. When he ascended, he gave gifts to men, these five expressions of himself. What is difficult for most of us to grasp is that Paul tells us that “grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”2 During my years of studying God’s word, almost every commentator I have read has said that these graces were only given to certain men who were called to give their lives in the role of one of these ministries and they were referred to as “offices.” That is not what Paul said. He said that this grace was given “to each one of us.” Here we go again. This means you and me—all of us.

This may sound heretical to some for a few reasons. 1. Many of us have been taught that all but the Pastor and Teacher (and maybe the Evangelist) are no longer given today. They were only around during the first generation or so after the ascension of Jesus, and they died out. Obviously, I disagree with that assumption. 2. Even those who believe that God is still giving these gifts assume they are limited to his selected few who are called to give their lives in these “offices,” which eliminates the idea that this grace is given to “each one of us.” I don’t have space to address these objections in detail here due to space so let me go on to explain what I have come to believe this passage is teaching regarding “each one of us.”

A thorough look at the book of Acts and the New Testament epistles shows that not all of the believers were called to be Apostles, Prophets, etc. This is a calling that is given to some only. So, how is it that this grace is given to each one of us? I have come to believe that there is the function of an apostolic mind or heart that is given to some people who are not called to “be” an Apostle. Alan Hirsch refers to it as apostolic intelligence.3 The same can be said of all of these five gifts. All believers have these five expressions of the ministry of Jesus in them in varying potencies. I believe one will be dominant and heavily influence how one thinks and acts. For example, those who have apostolic intelligence will tend to be more entrepreneurial and risk-takers. Those with shepherd intelligence will naturally tend more toward caring for the community to which he or she belongs and have concern for relationships. The person with teacher intelligence will tend to be more detailed and concerned to pass the truth on to others, etc. These characteristics exist whether one is called to live as an apostle, shepherd, or teacher or not.

I am fully aware of the argument that the only Apostles were the twelve, and I recognize that there is a unique role for those twelve Apostles. There are, however, more than twelve persons named as Apostles in the New Testament. So we have to make accommodation for additional apostles and recognize that there were significant reasons for the existence of apostles beyond receiving the revelation of the gospel and writing Scripture. Answering these objections would take a small, or maybe not so small, book, so I won’t pursue these questions any further now.

Gifts from the Father

The gifts of the Father are those identified in Romans 12:3-8. I have written more fully on these gifts under the topic of Motivational Gifts. If you would like to look into those articles, click on “Motivational Gifts” in the tags cloud in the right side column. These gifts are named prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, contributor, leader (or facilitator), and one who shows mercy. We each have these gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.4 They are according to the measure of faith God has assigned to each individual.5

To the point of my commentary today, every believer is given grace from the triune God in each of the three areas of gifts. I believe that each person has one dominant motivational gift that will color all that he or she does. If one is given the motivational gift of exhortation, it will color everything they do. When an exhorter teaches, they will teach like an exhorter, not like a teacher. If that person acts in a leader or facilitator role, they will do it with the flavor of an exhorter. Being an exhorter by gifting does not limit one to only exhorting, but when they do other things, they will do those things with the flavor of an exhorter.

In addition to motivational gifts, the same individual has been given a dominant gift in the APEST five-fold category, which will also color all they do. As I wrote earlier, not everyone is called to the five-fold to serve as an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, or Teacher. Still, they do have the unique intelligence of one of these that will enable them to view and act in life according to that gift.

Finally, the gifts of the Spirit are a little different. They are fleeting. They are temporary manifestations of the Holy Spirit. They do not operate at the immediate behest of the individual believer but are given to each by Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.6

An individual believer may have a gift from the Father of service, from the Son of an evangelist, and is subject to the Spirit to apportion any of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit and any time as he wills. These combinations of gifts exist in different believers to create a unique gift set for each person. Add to this the uniqueness of each person’s life experience, having been raised by different parents with different siblings in a different part of the world in a different culture. You can see that the outcome will always be unique. Knowing your gift set does not limit you; it allows you to give yourself to those areas to which God has given you a special ability to manifest his love to the world around you.

The point of all of the gifts in each category is to build up the body of Christ and show forth God’s love and his glory to the world. These gifts are never for self-aggrandizement or power. The greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves the best.

To receive all that God has for us, we must accept all that he gives. It is unfortunate that much of the body of Christ limits itself to only a couple of these gifts and is consequently under-nourished. This is one reason the church in the West is as weak as it is. May God open our eyes and hearts to all that he has given and receive it with full hearts of gratitude.

  1. 1 Corinthians 12:11
  2. Ephesians 4:11
  3. Hirsch has written or co-written several books that elaborate on the five-fold, which he refers to as APEST including, The Forgotten Ways, The Permanent Revolution, and 5Q Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, and more.
  4. Romans 12:6
  5. Romans 12:3
  6. 1 Corinthians 12:11