30 November, 2007

Spiritual Gifts vs Natural Abilities...

As we've been exploring the spiritual gifts together as a church, a number of you have raised the question - what's the difference between a spiritual gift and a natural ability? Here's an answer provided by John Piper...

It is helpful to me to think about spiritual gifts in this way because it keeps me from simply equating them with natural abilities. Many unbelievers have great abilities in teaching and in administration, for example. And these abilities are God-given whether the people recognize this or not. But these would not be called "spiritual gifts" of teaching or administration because they are not expressions of faith and they are not aiming to strengthen faith. Our faith in the promises of God is the channel through which the Spirit flows on His way to strengthening the faith of others (Galatians 3:5). Therefore, no matter what abilities we have, if we are not relying on God and not aiming to help others rely on Him, then our ability is not a "spiritual gift." It is not "spiritual" because the Holy Spirit is not flowing through it from faith to faith.

This has tremendous implications for how we choose church staff and church officers and board members. It means that we will never simply ask, "who has the skill to be efficient?" We will always go beyond that and ask, "Do they use their skill in such a way that you can tell it is an expression of their hearty reliance on the Lord? And do they exercise their skill with a view to strengthening the faith and joy of others?" A church where the Holy Spirit is alive and powerful will be a church very sensitive to the difference between natural abilities and spiritual gifts.