Have you ever considered why there are so many diverse spiritual gifts in the body of Christ? In the various lists provided for us in Scripture (Rom. 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 27-31; Eph. 4:7-12; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), you discover the wide scope of the Spirit’s sovereign administration of gifts for the encouragement and edification of the local church. Agreeing with most theologians, these lists are not to be considered comprehensive in description, but they are descriptive in the sense that they show all the various ways the Spirit of God enables members for service in the kingdom of God.
As I’ve reflected on this diversity of gifts, it comes to my mind how significant they are to the promise of Christ to build His church (Matt. 16:18). His ongoing work (Acts 1:1) extends through the ministry of His Spirit to and through His body in order to minister to the needs of the saints, strengthening them in faith. Simply put, the diversity of spiritual gifts reveals the incredible depth of our need.
We are a profoundly needy people. One of the ways we discover the extent of our need is through Christ’s provision of so many gifts of His Spirit. It is true that all we have and all we need is in Christ. But how is the abundant provision of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection appropriated to every believer? Jesus meets us where we are, with our specific needs, through the ministry of His Spirit among His people as gifts (abilities) are exercised for the service of the saints. What we discover when the gifts are exercised is nothing less than Christ Himself working through His body to accomplish His purposes in the world.
Why are there gifts of teaching in the body? Because there is a great need for us to be taught God’s Word accurately.
Why are there gifts of mercy and help in the body? Because we need the compassion and practical loving assistance of fellow members in various circumstances of life.
Why are there gifts of leadership and administration? Because we need direction and guidance from those with wisdom and skill to live in a manner consistent with God’s Word and conforms to the character and ways of Christ.
Gift after gift, we discover need after need sovereignly met through the gracious provision of Christ for His church.
Of course, this is not to argue that, should we not be gifted in a particular way we are somehow excused from meeting the needs of others. Some are gifted to teach, but we are all commanded to teach, exhort, and instruct one another. Some are gifted to show mercy, but we are all commanded to be merciful to others. Rather, what we see in the exercise of spiritual gifts are the excellencies of the Spirit to magnify Christ by meeting the needs of the saints through mutual service and expressions of encouragement. When spiritual gifts are exercised, the church is built up just as Christ promised.
When spiritual gifts are viewed through the lens of individual needs of fellow members, they are deployed, not simply debated. If churches are to protect the unity of the Spirit and grow in grace, then each member must carry the stewardship to excel in meeting the needs of one another in ways that the Giver is glorified as the gifts are exercised (1 Pet. 4:11).