Thursday, October 11, 2007

Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are called "spiritual" because they come from the Spirit of God. In his letters, Paul provided three lists of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11). Since the lists are not identical, they appear as examples, not comprehensive lists of spiritual gifts.
Though we might ask how spiritual gifts differ from natural talents, Paul was probably unconcerned about distinguishing between physical and spiritual abilities. To him all gifts, "natural" or "supernatural," came from God. The central issue for Paul was people using their abilities to build up and strengthen the church. No wonder he was upset to learn that the Corinthians were misusing their spiritual gifts. Instead of building the church, they were destroying it (1 Cor. 3:3, 16-17).

Paul probably recognized all abilities that strengthened the church as being spiritual gifts—even those that might be based on "natural" talent and developed by training. He speaks of gifts (teaching and hospitality, for instance) that can be based on innate abilities and can be improved through practice. Nevertheless, Paul also recognized supernatural gifts given extraordinarily and suddenly.

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