Is every believer guaranteed at least one spiritual gift?
—Tracie N. Moore, Springfield Gardens, New York

The short answer is yes—at least one, perhaps more. But let us be clear what we are talking about. What are spiritual gifts? None of the New Testament passages that speak of them (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Pet. 4:10-11) define them. Since these passages all come from letters to churches where gifts were already in use, and the only question was whether they were being used well, that need not surprise us. But constructing a definition is not hard.

Gifts are manifestations of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11), given to build up the church (12:7, 14:4) and the individuals within it. It is only through Christ, in Christ, and by learning and responding to Christ that anyone is ever edified. Therefore, gifts should be defined in terms of him—as powers of expressing, celebrating, displaying, and obeying Christ. Gifts communicate his reality through word or action in service of God and others (fellow believers and non-Christians too).

Gifts vary. There are gifts of speech and of Samaritanship; Paul's flitting to and fro between the two kinds in his gift lists (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10) shows that there is no scale of values attached to them. There is no pecking order between helping, serving, giving, administering, encouraging, and being kind, on the one hand, and preaching, teaching, leading, and exhorting, on the other, let alone such "sign-gifts" as healing, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues.

The key truth is that in the church, which is one body in Christ, we're all members—that is, body parts of Christ, and, in him, of each other.

Among the variety of God's ...

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