Correlating the Spiritual Gifts Passages

Introduction

There are four classic passages in the Bible that clearly mention the gifts of the spirit, as they are popularly understood in church circles today. The following is a brief correlation and explanatory analysis of these four passages, preceding a short applicational summary.

The Passages

The four passages in question are Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31[1]; Ephesians 4:7-12; and 1 Peter 4:10-11. These five passages share very few common features. The only thread that ties them all together is the fact that certain gifts, offices, or practices are listed and these offices, gifts, or practices seem to coincide with similar purposes in each passages, namely, promoting unity in the church for the glory of God. The language indicating these commonalities and distinctives will be examined for each passage individually and then conclusions will be drawn concerning the whole.

Romans 12:4-8

Romans 12:4-8 shares a key word that is found in many of these passages and is extremely important in the discussion: χαρισμα or “gift.” This word shares a root with the noun χαρις meaning “grace.”[2] The former word appears relatively infrequently in the New Testament, 17 times, and the majority of these appearances are in the books of Romans and 1 Corinthians. It is used in three of the four passages currently being discussed.[3] The grammar of the passage also leads one to wonder where the sentence in verse six starts. Is the participial phrase “having different gifts…” introducing a new sentence or completing the sentence before it? Answering this question is relatively unimportant, because the flow of thought remains the same in either case.

Schatzmann argues, and cites many others as support, that “either option necessitates the addition of hortatory imperatives for the remainder of the passage.”[4] This is a sound argument. While this use of a participle to import an imperatival meaning into the statements that follow it is a rare one, Wallace essentially agrees with Schatzmann and the others by stating that “most of the NT instances of this phenomenon will be found in Rom 12 or 1 Peter. Indeed, the same unique phenomenon occurs in 1 Peter 4, there with the participle διακονοῦντες or “serving.”

What are these χαριματα that Paul mentions in Romans while implicitly exhorting the reader to use them? they are prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and mercy. The pattern of “εἴτε+gift+ἐν+description, is decisively broken in verse 9 with “Let love be without hypocrisy,” and the repetition of εἴτε is left off in verse eight. For this reason, I have not included love as a χαρισμα.

The particular exhortations associated with each gift are straight-forward and expected, except perhaps the exhortation to exercise prophecy “according to the proportion of faith.” Were this a discussion of sign gifts and their use, more space would be devoted to expositing this exhortation. Suffice it to say that the gift of prophecy seems to be singled out in Romans 12:6 with an exhortative phrase that limits its use, where the other gifts are accompanied by an exhortative phrase that expands their use, though this may be an unfair conclusion, as the limiting phrase “according to the proportion” may be intended to be implicitly repeated for each subsequent gift, however, the change in preposition makes this prospect less likely. Regardless, prophecy is clearly an important gift in Paul’s mind, because he includes it, or its related office of “prophet,” in all three of his lists.[5]

1 Corinthians 12:4-31

In terms of the gifts that Paul expounds upon in 1 Corinthians 12, he says much the same as he did in Romans. A word used here to emphasize however is διδωμι or “to give.” This is the word that describes how the different χαρισματα reach their recipients, they are given to them by the father. A much more common word than χαρισματα, διδωμι occurs in three of the four passages we are discussing.[6]

The fact that the different gifts are given to their recipients, instead of earned, created, or developed by the recipients is important. Each instance that the word is used, or implied by parallelism, the source of these gifts, the actor in the action of giving, is the Spirit. The Spirit as the actor in giving is most clearly in verse nine, with the words ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι and again ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι. It is “by” this “one” and “the same Spirit” that the gifts are given. The Spirit as the source of these gifts can be most clearly seen in verses seven and eight, with the simple use of the genitive τοῦ πνεύματος.

1 Corinthians 12 stresses the gift of prophecy, as Romans did, and in this chapter comes the most comprehensive list of gifts provided in the scripture. Faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, tongues, helps, administration, and others make appearances, but the emphasis is clearly placed upon the sign gifts which have to do with receiving revelation from God.

Ephesians 4:7-12

It’s possible to argue that Ephesians 4 shouldn’t be considered a spiritual gifts passage. It does not use the key word χαρισματα for the “gifts” mentioned in the passage. Instead, the more general δωρεα, which usually relates to the gift of freedom from slavery, is used. This causes one to wonder if the spiritual gifts are in view when Paul uses the word, or if he was speaking of some other kind of gift.

The introductory verse states “but to each one of us, grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s δωρεα.” This would seem to refer strictly to the salvation that Christ gives to men, i.e. the freedom from slavery to the master of sin. After this however, Paul quotes Psalm 68 which speaks of Christ ascending on high and giving men “gifts,” (plural) here using the word δοματα. After a brief aside, he explains the gifts of which he is thinking in relation to this verse, namely, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints and for the work of service to build up the body of Christ.”

The question is, “Are these spiritual gifts, or are these better considered offices in which certain spiritual gifts might be used?” The former has two good arguments in its favor, and they relate back to the other spiritual gifts passages.

First, 1 Corinthians 12:28 lists apostles, prophets, and teachers in a list along with gifts of healing, administration, various types of helps, and tongues. These last four are clearly spiritual gifts and so it seems reasonable to conclude that Paul linked the offices of apostles, prophets, and teachers so closely with the gift used in executing that office that they may be treated indistinguishably.

Second, the context of all the other passages is that these gifts are to be used to bring unity to the body of Christ through serving one another with the gift. This holds true for the context of Ephesians 4 and this list of offices/gifts. For these reasons, it seems right to include this list in Ephesians 4 as a legitimate list of spiritual gifts, not just a list offices.

1 Peter 4:10-11

This passage fits perfectly with the purpose and point of the other spiritual gifts passages, and even uses the same word χαρισμα. Peter instructs his readers to use the gifts they’ve been given in service to others, all for the glory of God. That is the basic point of the gifts of the spirit. They help believers to better love their neighbor as themselves, and in their loving of their neighbor, doing so unto the glory of God.

Application

The point of these passages, working together for the believer, is simple. If you are a believer of the gospel, you have a gift that God wants you to use in order to serve your fellow believers. Whatever your gift is, use it. If your gift is teaching, then teach boldly, if your gift is giving, give generously, if your gift is service, then serve whole-heartedly. Use your gifts to help your brothers and sisters, and do so as if you were doing it unto God Himself, because in a sense, you are. It is His body, the body of Christ, which you serve with the gifts that the Spirit gives you.

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Bibliography

 

Schatzmann, Siegfried. The Pauline Theology of Charisma. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987.

Thomas, Robert L Understanding Spiritual Gifts. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology. Chicago: Moody, 1986.

[1] Many treatments (Understanding Spiritual Gifts by Thomas for example) take 1 Corinthians 12-14 as an entire block and draw conclusions from it as a whole, but since this treatment is not diving into the question of cessationism or continuationism, large portions of these chapters are not pertinent in this discussion.

[2] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1986), 423.

[3] Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4. Ephesians 4 does not use the word χαρισμα.

[4] Siegfried Schatzmann, The Pauline Theology of Charisma (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 20.

[5] Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Ephesians 4:11.

[6] It is not used in 1 Peter 4, however a common and necessary counterpart to the idea of giving, λαμβανω or “to receive,” is used in this passage.

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